NORCROSS — In the fourth quarter of a tight game against Westminster on Aug. 30, Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Tim Hardy called a play in to his quarterback.
Jackson Hardy, his eldest son, snapped a sharp pass down field.
Sophomore receiver Will Hardy reeled it in for a 17-yard gain before being tackled.
“That was a special moment, brother to brother,” Tim said.
Towering offensive tackle Myles Hinton looked at Jackson with wide eyes.
“Right after I threw it and Will was running down and got tackled, Myles turned around and was like, 'OH! Hardy to Hardy to Hardy!'” Jackson said with a grin.
In the stands, their mom, Lindsey, was as animated as usual.
“Game day I'm so nervous I can't eat,” she said.
Jackson and Will have always gone with Tim on Fridays, long before they were on the varsity team together.
When the family moved here from Illinois a decade ago, so Tim could head up the program at Mountain View, Jackson was in second grade and Will was in kindergarten. They became ballboys for the Bears and joined the youth league when Tim spearheaded that initiative.
Tim remembers how all his kids, including the youngest, Anna, were football fans before they played a down.
“We never forced anybody to do anything,” he said. “I can remember watching the Super Bowl when Jackson was like 5 years old ...
“ … Bears-Colts,” Jackson interjected.
“Just staying up late and him being glued in,” Tim finished. “Even with Anna, she knows what's going on. I was driving her somewhere and she was in preschool and someone had a fleur de lis on the back of the car. She's like, 'Dad, that's Saints, right?'”
The football genes run deep. Lindsey's legacy dates back to the earliest days of the sport. When Jackson goes off to Richmond in the fall, he'll be a fifth-generation collegiate player.
Lindsey's great grandfather, Reid Nash, played for Mercer in the first University of Georgia football game in 1892.
Her grandfather, Tom Nash Sr., was the first consensus All-American at UGA in 1927. He played for the Green Bay Packers from 1928-32, winning three world championships under legendary coach Curly Lambeau.
Tom Nash Jr., Lindsey's dad, was an academic All-American and All-SEC player for the Bulldogs. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but opted to go to law school instead.
“This is why I'm so crazy about football,” Lindsey said with a laugh. “I have two sisters and our family was die-hard. We went to all the Georgia games, all the bowl games.”
She ended up going to college at Wheaton, just outside Chicago, though. That's where she met Tim, the team's All-American quarterback.
“The way I showed my love for him is I went to games in 10 degree weather,” she said. “One of the things I admire about Tim is he's so committed to the details. He was an amazing leader (at Wheaton).”
She was absolutely on board, too, when Tim decided to eschew a tantalizing job opportunity right after graduation in his field of finance.
“He said, 'I really feel like God is calling me to be a football coach,'” Lindsey said. “Football has always meant a lot to us. From my perspective as a coach's wife, I know the lives he's impacting, especially at the high school level. Tim's football program is not just about X's and O's. He's so intentional about really building that community.
“The hours, sometimes it is hard, but I have to remind myself he's leaving something that will last on these kids forever.”
GAC's K-12 campus has given Tim the chance to be with all of his kids far more than average.
During the week, he takes them to school each morning and somewhere during that 30-minute ride, the dynamics shift.
"These guys have always made it easy,” Tim said. “They call me coach, and so it doesn't put anyone in an awkward situation. They don't put me in a tough position, they don't put themselves in a tough position. They don't try to come and get favors for the team.
“Both these guys have stood out in their work ethic, in their attitude. Jackson is one of our captains. Will is one of two sophomores on our leadership council. All those things are voted on by players. They, with their own merit, have created positive opportunities for themselves. That's something I'm proud of.”
This year, dating back to late winter, has been something for the Hardys to cherish.
In February, Will was coming off a knee surgery and there was some question as to whether he would be ready for the season.
“He really worked on his rehab and recovery,” Jackson said. “When he got healthy, he was doing all he could to get out there. If you had told me then I would have completed a pass to him in the fourth quarter in a close game at Westminster ...”
Jackson tossed his hands in the and grinned.
“That's awesome,” he said. “It's been really fun playing with him.”
Will is always there when Jackson wants to throw the ball around at home.
“Just two Sundays ago, Will and I went out,” Jackson said. “We have this field a little bit behind our house. We were just chucking the ball around and making up trick plays, like triple reverses with a pitch and a deep ball. We were just having a bunch of fun. We punted the ball. We caught like 53 punts in a row. We were trying to see how many we could catch in a row. We were out there over an hour just having a bunch of fun.
“We were going into a bye week so I didn't have to worry about the arm.”
Tim, too, makes time when Jackson asks — even at 11 p.m. after they got home from a basketball game at North Hall. In February.
“In case you're wondering, the security light at Rabbit Hill goes out at midnight,” Tim said with a laugh. “Luckily the ball wasn't in the air at the time.”
Tim and Lindsey's devotion to their kids doesn't go unappreciated.
“He and my mom, too, they want to give us every opportunity to be successful in life and have every opportunity to grow as a person, athletically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally,” Jackson said.
The family took a road trip to visit colleges for Jackson on spring break. They covered 2,000 miles and 11 schools in six days.
“Obviously it was focused in specifically on Jackson, but even with everybody it was awesome,” Tim said. “It was probably the best trip our family has ever been on. We were all together.”
After the last stop, at Elon, they were headed home and talked about ranking the schools.
“Before we did, Anna goes, 'Wait. Can I tell you the meal plans at every school?'” Tim said with a chuckle. “She recited verbatim how many meals you got, if there was extra Dog dollars or whatever.
“It was just really cool to see all of us together, enjoying being around these programs. Initially, Anna was like, 'Are we near any water?' The Hudson River, but I don't know if you want to swim in it. But ultimately, it was a great visit because we were all together.”
As much as football permeates the family's life, they can set it aside at home. Their competitive nature? Maybe not as much.
“Whether it's playing Xbox or basketball outside, both of us really want to win,” Jackson said looking at Will.
Which sparked a debate only siblings can really have about whether or not Will broke a controller when he lost and got mad
“He broke one or two,” Jackson said. “Maybe more.”
“They were broken already,” Will said.
“Whatever,” Jackson said, a smile creeping across his face. “My point is that we push each other to be our best, whatever we're doing.”
Lindsey might be the most competitive person in the family, though.
“Sometimes I'm like, do I care too much?” Lindsey said. “I asked if I could help him coach. 'Honey, I'm good.' If we've never played someone, I tell him, if you let me watch the film I promise I'll leave you alone.”
Tim knows it's much harder to watch from the stands than it is to be part of the game.
“You have no control,” he said.
Lindsey paces up and down the bleachers. She's often exhorting the fans to stand up and cheer.
“With both of them out there, I'm really trying to enjoy it,” Lindsey said. “It goes so fast. You look forward to something for so long. Now that we're here, I'm just really trying to cherish all the moments, celebrate everything.”