MIAMI -- Kansas City Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman is looking forward to facing 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV, but he might want to be careful what he wishes for.
The two players met when Hardman was a teenager at The Opening, a showcase for the top high school football players in the country. Hardman has communicated with Sherman on social media since then, but meeting on the field in the biggest game of the year will obviously take the cake.
“I met him at The Opening for the first time when I was in 11th grade,” Hardman said. “I met him and kind of like talked to him and everything. It’s crazy actually playing against him in the Super Bowl now. I was playing corner at the time so he was kind of a guy that I looked up to and kind of wanted to be like a little bit.
"And playing against him now is kind of crazy.”
Hardman has a lot of respect for the veteran, and he knows Sherman has the advantage of experience on his side.
“His knowledge for the game,” Hardman said. “I think he’s a film junkie from talking to him at The Opening. He always watches film. He tries to get the best of his opponent. He’s trying to be a step up on the field.”
Hardman, who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine has speed on his side. He finished his rookie season catching 26 of his 41 targets for 538 yards and six touchdowns. He averages 11.5 yards after catch, partly due to his blazing speed.
Hardman faced off with Sherman in the preseason, but the rookie shared that it wasn’t a true test of what their matchup could be on Sunday. Even with speed on his side, the Chiefs receiver couldn’t put his finger on what his advantage would be over the veteran.
“That’s kind of hard,” Hardman said. “I’ve never been against him. I think I went against him one time in the preseason, but he really wasn’t playing like that. But I’m going to try to see what I can get him at, you know?”
Sherman is well known to easily be motivated by doubt and slights, real or manufactured, but trash talking certainly moves the barometer. Hardman has plans to poke the proverbial bear on Sunday, which could prove to be lethal.
“He's a great trash talker I heard,” Hardman said. “So I’m ready to talk a little trash with him out there, try to see if I can get him going, but it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to the matchup.”
Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Saturday).
Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.