Come Tuesday, that will forever be no more.
Hardwick, an 11-year veteran center, will retire from the NFL on Tuesday, the San Diego Chargers announced Monday. There will be a news conference at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Drafted out of Purdue in the third round of the same class as Rivers in 2004, Hardwick was Rivers' center for the vast majority of their time together in the NFL. Often lauded for his toughness, durability and longevity, Hardwick started 136 games in his career. The two started 108 games together from 2006 to 2013.
Hardwick was named to the 2006 Pro Bowl, a campaign in which the Chargers finished with a 14-2 record. Hardwick led an offensive line that opened holes for running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who had the best season of his career, rushing for 1,815 yards and a record 31 total touchdowns (28 rushing, three receiving).
Hardwick declared 2014 would be his last season, but didn't foresee it being cut drastically short due to injury, he told U-T San Diego. The center played in just one game before neck issues forced him to sit out for the rest of the year, ultimately ending his time as a professional just one game into his 11th season.
The impending retirement became a terribly kept secret as the 2014 season progressed, as the once-stocky Hardwick dramatically thinned out, dropping nearly 100 pounds to go from a listed weight of 305 to 208 pounds. The drop was noticeable with each passing week the veteran spent standing on San Diego's sideline.
Rivers honored Hardwick in Week 2, wearing Hardwick's No. 61 in place of his No. 17 on his helmet.