Chiefs rookie WR Mecole Hardman: ’I came in to work hard, I came in to learn’
From the time he was a kid, Mecole Hardman promised his parents he’d buy them anything he could when he became a professional football player.
Houses, Range Rovers, anything and everything to show his appreciation for their support.
Hardman’s first opportunity to fulfill that promise came when the Chiefs selected him with the No. 56 overall draft pick earlier this year.
Wooed by his speed and his prospects as a returner, the Chiefs traded up in the second round to nab the University of Georgia wide receiver..
Finally, Hardman had the resources to make a grand gesture.
Just a couple weeks before training camp he presented Danyell Hardman with the keys to a new home.
He announced his big purchase with a tweet and a video, one that now has over a million views on Twitter.
In his tweet, Mecole said it was his turn to take care of his mom now.
But the truth is Hardman started helping his mom long before he unveiled her new home.
Six years ago, doctors removed a tumor the size of an apple from Danyell’s brain.
The pair had a close relationship before the tumor and the surgeries, but that ordeal formed an unbreakable bond between mother and son.
“That’s when he became a mama’s boy,” Danyell said. “Because he was never a mama’s boy. He was always up under his daddy. He was a daddy’s boy 24/7. I think after that, that’s when he really became a mama’s boy.”
An unexpected diagnosis
Danyell Hardman bent down to square her putter with the ball on a stretch of green turf in Greenville, South Carolina.
It was March 2013, and the family had traveled about an hour to celebrate Mecole’s 15th birthday with a couple rounds of putt-putt.
As she looked down to swing, Danyell felt something was wrong. She was overcome with dizziness, her sense of smell altered.
This was different from the headaches that had plagued her for the better part of two years, diagnosed by the doctors as chronic sinus infections.
“I think when you have headaches so long, you get used to the pain,” she said. “And that’s what happened. I got so accustomed to it that I just was dealing with it.”
The episode at the putt-putt course convinced her to see a doctor again. This time, the diagnosis wasn’t a sinus infection.
It was a meningioma, a rare, slow-growing benign tumor located near the middle of her head.
The first time it showed up on a CAT scan, Danyell’s tumor looked to be the size of a golf ball.
An MRI showed it might be a little bigger, changing the doctors’ initial plans to remove it through her nose.
But when surgeons opened Danyell’s head in May 2013, they were shocked at what they saw.
The tumor was the size of an apple, so large it was pushing her brain against the back of her skull.
“They’re not cancerous or anything, but they affect a lot of things, like your sight, sense of smell,” Danyell said. “The doctors didn’t think I’d be able to see again or smell again. It caused me to have a couple of seizures.”
The removal process took multiple surgeries, including one in July 2013 to replace the part of her skull removed in the initial surgery. She had to wait months for the swelling in her brain to go down to have the second surgery. Mecole was right by her side, comforting his mom throughout the surgeries and keeping her company in the hospital.
“When you go through a situation like that, it’s kind of hard because you’re thinking about all the worst thing that can happen,” Mecole said. “It’s hard to think positive in situations like that. But all I remember, just hoping she’d get better and hope she’d be OK.”
The experience also led to Mecole choosing Georgia over other suitors to stay close to his mom.
“He did not want to leave,” Danyell said. “I think that put a different aspect of life to work harder for something when I went through all of that.”
Avoiding doctors’ worst fears about potential permanent damage to her senses, Danyell felt her recovery was speeding along.
She felt so good after the July skull surgery, she stopped taking her anti-seizure medication.
Becoming a mama’s boy
Danyell remembers waking up in an ambulance.
She had been driving back from Athens with her mother in the passenger’s seat after the July surgery when her thoughts became jumbled. Her sentences became nonsensical.
Then she got quiet.
Her hands gripped the steering wheel and her foot mashed the accelerator.
As their car swerved all over the winding road, Danyell’s mother tried desperately to pry her daughter’s hands off the steering wheel. When she couldn’t wrestle the wheel away, she prayed.
When Danyell’s mom looked up, the car was on the side of the road with an ambulance behind it.
Danyell doesn’t remember anything after her thoughts started to run together, and it wasn’t until recently that her mom told her the full story of that afternoon.
“I didn’t know who I was for a while, about six hours or so,” Danyell said, describing waking up in the ambulance.
She found out later that she had suffered a seizure, one that occurred partly because she stopped taking her medication. Doctors told her to stop driving for three months while her brain continued to heal.
That’s when Mecole, new to driving, took over as his mom’s chauffeur.
With his siblings off at school and living across the country, Mecole became his mom’s go-to helper. He took her to the grocery store, to work and all over town to run errands.
“He helped out a lot,” Danyell said. “He really did because he was really the only one that was here.”
Their arrangement was beneficial for both son and mother. He got driving experience and someone to talk to, and she had a way to get where she needed to go.
“Driving her around, she had to listen to me a lot,” Mecole said. “It was fun being the bigger person in the situation. I had no problem with it.”
The pair were close before Mecole drove Danyell around, but this strengthened their bond even more.
A new home for the Hardmans
The family started looking at new houses around the time Mecole decided he wouldn’t return to Georgia for another year.
With 950 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns and a handful of All-America honors for his kick-return abilities, Hardman was ready to make the jump to the NFL after his junior season.
The first time Mecole’s parents toured their new house, there was another family there looking around, too. They assumed it would be off the market before they could make an offer, so they moved on.
But weeks later, Mecole Sr. told his wife that was their house. He just had a feeling.
So the couple called the real estate agent back. The house hadn’t been purchased. They took another tour, and the couple agreed it was perfect for their family.
Then Mecole told his mom he wanted to wait until his second contract to buy the house and would instead upgrade their family home, doing things like replacing the old carpet.
But that was just to throw her off the scent.
Danyell didn’t know that behind the scenes, Mecole was purchasing the home and arranging a major surprise for his mom.
Shortly before he reported for camp, Mecole loaded his family into a van and told his mom they were going bowling. Just before they reached the house, he slipped a blindfold over her eyes.
Not only did Hardman gift his mom the house, he also had another surprise for his dad delivered to the Hardmans’ new home: a 2019 black Dodge Challenger with customized red leather seats.
“That’s just been something that he’s always wanted to do as a kid,” Danyell said. “To show his mom and dad that he appreciates everything they’ve done for him.”