THE FLATS – Leon Hardeman, a 1952 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and member of the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, died on Monday. He was 87.
Hardeman played halfback for Georgia Tech from 1951-53. He amassed 2,017 yards (1,794 rushing, 223 receiving) and ran for 22 touchdowns in his three seasons at Tech, helping the Yellow Jackets compile a 32-2-2 overall record, including wins in the 1952 Orange Bowl and 1953 and ’54 Sugar Bowls. He was named MVP of Georgia Tech’s 24-7 win over Ole Miss in the 1953 Sugar Bowl, which capped a 12-0 season and sealed the 1952 national championship for the Jackets.
Hardeman ran for a career-high 776 yards and nine touchdowns during the Yellow Jackets’ national title season in 1952, en route to being named SEC Player of the Year by United Press and a first-team all-American. He was a third-team all-American as a senior in 1953 and was also a three-time all-SEC honoree.
He was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1954 National Football League Draft but turned down the opportunity to play professional football in order to join the U.S. Army. He served in the Army as a first lieutenant in Germany, where he also coached a football team. After his military service, he had a 30-year career with Owens-Illinois, retiring as a national vice president.
Hardeman was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1961. The Chattanooga, Tenn. native is also a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Baylor School Hall of Fame and the Chattanooga Old Timers Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife, Margaret, three sons, a stepson, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter.
A graveside service will be held on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetary. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to Hearth Hospice. Click HERE to share condolences and view a memorial tribute.