CLOVIS, Calif. — Former Bulldog Jesse Hardwick played a noteworthy role in one of the more memorable moments in the history of Fresno State football.
“As we were carrying him to midfield,” says Hardwick. “I was like, ‘please, just don’t drop him. Please don’t drop him.'”
The former All-Conference tackle was one of two linemen who carried Jim Sweeney onto the field at the end of the 1992 Freedom Bowl win over USC.
“We had to put the top ‘Dog on the shoulders and carry him off in style,” says Jesse, when remembering the moment.
And earlier this school year, the current Clovis High athletic director was on hand for another special moment, his daughter Julia signing a letter of intent to play soccer at Fresno State.
“There was always, in the back of my mind, the hope that would happen,” says Jesse. “But I was never gonna dictate, ‘hey, you gotta go to Fresno State.’ This was gonna be her path.”
“Just seeing all the facilities, just blew me away,” says Julia. “And obviously, having my hometown behind me, and knowing where everything’s at and stuff. I just fell in love with the school.”
Standing 6-feet 5-inches tall and weighing nearly 300 pounds during his playing days, Jesse made 36 straight starts for the Bulldogs, earning praise as a tough and dependable lineman. But after his playing days were over, his new team at home required something a little more subtle.
“Patience,” says a smiling Jesse. “Yeah, we had more pink and purple toys around our house than I knew what to do with. I think I stepped on half of them.”
Because Julia is the oldest of Jesse’s three daughters.
“I think God did it for a reason, a good reason.” jokes Jesse. “I’m outnumbered in our household. Even our dog’s female. We have a little bulldog.”
Jesse went from playing for the Bulldogs, to coaching football at Sanger, then moved on to athletic adminstration for both Sanger and Clovis. So not surprisingly, Julia followed her dad’s footsteps into athletics.
“I do remember him coming to my games, and just signing me up for all the sports I did,” says Julia about her dad. “And introducing me to soccer obviously.”
And in Julia’s case, one sport wasn’t enough. She excelled in three: tennis in the fall, soccer in the winter, and track in the spring. And she probably would have played basketball too, if it didn’t overlap with soccer.
“Her athleticism is far beyond where I was at,” says Jesse.
And she did all that while also maintaining a 4.23 GPA in the classroom; being involved in leadership on campus; and volunteering her time in the community. In May, Julia won Fresno’s prestigious B’nai B’rith Award, presented annually to a high school senior who combines athletic and scholastic success with community involvement.
“I don’t know how she did it, but she was able to manage all these things,” says Jesse.
Of course, she might have learned that from dad too. Because Jesse was managing a few different roles too — a caring dad at home, and the athletic director at her high school.
“He definitely means a lot to me,” adds Julia, who says she was known as the “A.D’s daughter” around her high school. “He’s definitely one of my biggest role models in my life.”
“The athletic director, the dad,” says Jesse. “I’m trying to split the hairs between those two (when Julia was playing at Clovis).”
But next year at Fresno State, that will change when Julia dons the Bulldog red for the first time — 28 years after her father did it for the last time.
“I tell ya what, it’s gonna be nice to be able to sit down and be a dad,” says Jesse. “I mean, I’m alumni there, obviously played football. My wife, her mom, is an alumni there, so having another Bulldog in the family, as they say, ‘Bulldog born, Bulldog Bred.'”