Family, former coaches rooting for ECU grad Justin Hardy this Super Bowl

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VANCEBORO, N.C. (WITN) - An Eastern Carolina native takes the field this Sunday to play in football's biggest game for the first time.

ECU graduate Justin Hardy, from Vanceboro, is a receiver for the Falcons.

People who are close to Justin Hardy all say similar things that he is a humble, extremely hard working young man who deserves all the accolades and attention he's getting.

"I am very excited, wow, you know it is just unbelievable, its an honor just to be here I mean, it's one of those things that, whew, I never thought about, I never even thought about coming to a Super Bowl," says Tara Hardy, Justin's mother.

Tara Hardy arrived in Houston Friday afternoon for a weekend full of events leading up to Sunday, when her son will play in the Super Bowl.

She says her family will start the game in the same way they always have. "We pray before the game, we just pray that God will shield him, protect him, pray for his teammates, the coaches, so you know he's here, we say say 'you deserve to be here, you just go out there and you do you.'"

Before Mrs. Hardy left Vanceboro to see her son play, celebrations were in full swing at Bridgeton Elementary School where she works and where Justin has visited to talk to students about hard work and perseverance.

"We threw a big pep rally and gave her a big banner to take and then yesterday we all dressed in ECU colors, because he graduated and played at ECU and ECU is where he broke the record for receptions," says Melisa Thompson, the principal of Bridgeton Elementary School.

A walk-on at ECU in 2010, those who know Justin say he deserves being in the spotlight.

"He was very humble, very respectful, his parents raised him well, he was a 'yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am,' never got in trouble, never had a referral during his high school career, just one of those people that you want on your team and in your class," says Michael McKeel, the football coach at West Craven H.S.

"I see Justin Hardy as a quintessential Pirate, we are not intimidated, that's how I saw Justin Hardy, he was never intimidated," says Jeff Connors, the strength and conditioning coach at ECU.

Super Bowl weekend is full of events in Houston and Justin's mom says the family will be busy leading up to the big game on Sunday.