Sep 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy reacts to the crowd during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium. Seattle wins 12-7. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Kraken Enigma

Here’s some food for thought Panther Nation. Greg Hardy is going to become one of the leagues biggest superstars. Hardy has already become a figurehead within the city of Charlotte, where “Release The Kraken” has become a common phrase as well as a call to arms on the jumbo-trons at Bank of America stadium, but Greg Hardy has the ability to become a defensive figurehead for the entire league, just based on his adopted Kraken persona. Not to mention he has the numbers to back it up.

When most people think about league wide dominant defenders of the past decades, who are also polarizing figures in the media and draw respect from normal everyday Americans, few come to mind. Ray Lewis, Michael Strahan, and Brian Urlacher are first few that pop to my head, along with a few others, but thats about it. Greg Hardy be could be the next Michael Strahan. However, Hardy is a completely different beast from Strahan (I draw comparison from Strahan because he also was a dominant defensive end.)

Nov 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) catches a pass in front of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) during the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When you talk about Greg Hardy, you have to talk about his level of play first. He just broke a single game record for sacks, with four against the Falcons, and helped break a single game record with the rest of the Panthers 2nd ranked defense. He also tied the single season record for sacks with fifteen. So Hardy is obviously a great defender, no questions asked, but it’s his persona that completely coincides with his dominant level of play that is the basis of the Kraken enigma. So with those stats in mind, now we delve into the true foundation of the Kraken enigma, his off-field presence.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Greg Hardy is one of the most self-aware and intelligent players in football today. Intelligent because he has one of the best football minds on the Carolina Panthers, the reason he has been so successful, and self aware because Hardy knows exactly what he’s doing. No one can tell me that Hardy doesn’t know he is creating one the best alter egos that the NFL has ever seen. The entire idea of the Kraken itself is ingenious, and the fact that he hails from Hogwarts just makes everything a bit sweeter. His self awareness is incredible, Greg Hardy is creating a brand that will last much longer than most anticipate.

The great thing about Greg Hardy is that he is doing this all for the betterment of Panther nation. His rallying cry to Panther fans,asking them to invade the Georgia Dome was one of the most publicized of all the NFL’s past call to arms and it had to have been orchestrated by the Kraken himself. Not only that, but Hardy has also been the face of some of the Panthers outreach programs, recently collecting coats at Northlake Mall for children in need, an event which was publicized all over Twitter via his personal account as well as the Panthers official account.

The Kraken is also incredibly funny. If you don’t agree, I implore you to watch this video of him describing his breakfast to an interviewer at the “Cereal. Killed it. No spoon.” That quote has to go down in Panthers history. Along with that, we also have the Sunday Night Football controversy where we learned Hardy’s actual alma mater was indeed Hogwarts and not Ole Miss.

Jun 12, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy walks to the practice field before the start of practice held at the Panthers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The most intriguing thing about the Kraken is that he doesn’t abuse his alter-ego. When I say this, I mean Greg Hardy has kept himself in check. He isn’t a wild nut-case who runs around being an idiot, swinging guns and hurling gang signs everywhere. Hardy is calculated, smart, and understands that with his increased status in the NFL he has to be careful about what he says and does. He isn’t vulgar. He isn’t rude or crass. He has a remarkable amount of self control for a young player, and this leads me to believe that he is incredibly intelligent and knows one slip up could tarnish the soon to be incredible reputation that he is creating. As I said before, his incredible amount of self awareness and self control is astounding.

Along with that, Hardy has a very respectable way about him. The week the Panthers played the Bucs at home, Hardy was late to a Saturday team meeting. Instead of protesting, Hardy accepted a fine, missed a start as well as a decreased amount of reps during the game, and then personally apologized to Head Coach Ron Rivera twice, the day of the incident and after the game on Sunday. Besides that, there have been no other mistakes Hardy has made in his time with the Panthers, and that mistake was incredibly minor and quickly remedied in my opinion.

Greg Hardy knows exactly what he’s doing. When it comes to creating a brand, the Kraken has definitely broken the mold. In my opinion, the Carolina Panthers have never had a player, on defense, as polarizing as the Kraken. During the times I’ve spent at Bank of America Stadium, I have seen huge amounts of 76 jerseys with “Kraken” on the back. The NFL doesn’t just make those, and if they are legit Nike jerseys the people buying them must have had them custom made from the NFL store, meaning they paid around $50 more. The Kraken has amassed a huge following, and it can only grow from here.

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