Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy is back, to the point that he's pictured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated.
The Rebels' premier pass rusher is shown drilling Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner from Florida, in Ole Miss' dramatic 31-30 victory over the then-No. 4 Gators in Gainesville, Fla. Hardy has come back from foot surgery in August to give the Rebels' defense a significant lift.
"It's always a good thing to go out and win a game like that," Hardy said. "It rejuvenates the team, picks up your spirits. We always expect to win in a situation like that. We were ready to go in and take one away from them."
Hardy had 1-1/2 sacks as the Rebels beat Florida for the first time since 2003, when Ole Miss played in the Cotton Bowl. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior from Millington, Tenn., led the SEC last season with 10 sacks.
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Hardy missed the Rebels' first three games with his foot injury before seeing spot duty in the 23-17 loss to Vanderbilt on Sept. 20.
"He's coming back a little quicker than I expected," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "He's a tremendous athlete, but I'm glad he's healthy and with us now."
Hardy gives much of the credit on his return to Ole Miss trainer Tim Mullins.
"Tim and his staff just worked with me a whole lot, and got me back as quickly as they could," he said. "It turned out to be quicker than I was expecting. They wrap (the foot) up pretty good. When the adrenaline gets flowing, I don't feel (any pain) at all.
"I just tried to stay focused on Tebow, get back to the same groove I was in and get back from this injury, basically."
The Rebels' upset of Florida has increased the stakes for Saturday's home game against South Carolina. The Rebels (3-2, 1-1 in the SEC) will have an open date after that game before traveling to play second-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
"Coach Nutt has put a big emphasis on telling the team right now that you need to get ready for South Carolina," Hardy said. "Florida is in the past."