Former All-SEC linebacker and three-year NFL veteran Byron "Bam" Hardmon is in his third season as the defensive graduate assistant on the Illini coaching staff in 2011, assisting Keith Gilmore with defensive line assignments.
In 2011, Hardmon helped tutor a defensive line that broke the school record with 41 sacks and ranked fourth nationally in tackles for loss (7.9 per game) and sixth nationally in sacks (3.2 per game). Defensive end Whitney Mercilus had a breakout year, earning consensus first-team All-America honors after leading the nation in sacks (16.0) and forced fumbles (9). Mercilus was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
Hardmon helped guide a budding star in 2010 in defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who was a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2011 NFL Draft after being named a fourth-team All-American by Phil Steele. Liuget and Akeem Spence combined for 108 tackles, the most by a pair of Illini defensive tackles since 1993, and Spence was named a Freshman All-American by Phil Steele and Rivals.com. The Illinois rushing defense also held five opponents under 100 yards in 2010.
Hardmon returned to football in 2009 after two years in the private business sector. He worked as the co-owner of S & S Trucking in Jacksonville, Fla., while also establishing a very successful real estate career.
Hardmon spent the 2003-06 seasons on three NFL rosters: the Miami Dolphins (2003), the Seattle Seahawks (2004) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2005). He also played two seasons in NFL Europe, winning a World Bowl title in 2007 with Hamburg.
Hardmon was a four-year letterwinner at linebacker for the University of Florida Gators and the team's captain in 2002 as a senior. During that season, in which the team went to the 2003 Outback Bowl, Hardmon was named second-team All-SEC. Hardmon not only excelled on the field but also off it as well. He was a three-time Academic All-SEC honoree and won the Betty Capaldi GPA Award. He ranked second in the SEC in tackles, fourth in the nation and set a UF single-season tackle record. Hardmon also won Florida's coveted Ferguson Leadership award in 2002.
Hardmon graduated from the University of Florida in 2003 with a degree in sociology, while minoring in education. He is married to the former Danerica Wright.