James Hardy is making more than believers out of his basketball teammates – he's turning them into IU football fans as well.
When Hardy told fellow newcomers A.J. Ratliff, Robert Vaden and D.J. White last summer that he'd be coming to Bloomington on a football scholarship instead of on a basketball tender, he raised some eyebrows. After all, he was a top-100 recruit nationally in basketball out of Ft. Wayne Elmhurst. His football resume, meanwhile, was short, thanks to the fact he'd only played two years on the high school level.
But in his first three college football games, he's shown it was no mistake to try his luck at playing two sports. He's leading the Hoosiers with 17 receptions, 266 yards and three touchdowns.
"Words can't describe what he's done – he's been awesome," said D.J. White. "He's shocking a lot of people right now. I don't think he's dropped a pass this year. Everything that's thrown to him he makes something happen."
Those big plays have also come at critical times. Against Central Michigan, it was a game-changing acrobatic catch down the sidelines to the CMU one-yard line that changed the course of a game eventually won by the Hoosiers, 20-13. Against Nicholls State, Hardy caught four of his team-high eight passes on IU's final drive, including a 39-yard play to get the drive started and a game-winning seven-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.
When he's making those things happen, he's doing so with his basketball teammates watching. They were in attendance for IU's win over Kentucky last weekend, and when the Hoosiers were on the road at Central Michigan for the season opener, they were cheering on their teammate from their living rooms.
"I've been out to both home games to watch him and when he's on the road we're in the house almost breaking things cheering for him," said Robert Vaden. "I feel good about it and I'm so happy for him."
His exploits have made Ratliff play closer attention to the IU football program.
"Not to take away from IU football, but James is the main reason I go watch the team," said Ratliff. "He's doing really well right now. I told him best of luck and you need to take what you're doing right now and do it against teams like Michigan and Wisconsin. Then we'll be cooking."
There was a time when some quietly questioned whether Hardy's decision to try his hand at both sports would stunt his growth in what appeared to be his best and preferred sport, basketball. But now nothing appears to be further from the truth – instead, the 6-7 Hardy appears to be someone who could have a very bright future in football in college and beyond.
"He's putting himself in position to by an NFL player one day," said White. "With his height at 6-7, that's what they need in receivers at that level. If he keeps doing what he's doing the sky is the limit for him."
While his basketball teammates are excited to see his exploits on the football field, they're equally intrigued by what he'll be able to do in basketball this winter as well. For one thing, Hardy is up to 215 pounds, nearly 30 pounds heavier than he was a year ago when he averaged 1.7 points and 10.7 minutes per game.
""That extra weight is going to make him a beast on the basketball court," said Ratliff. "He is so much stronger. He'll be able to finish with authority."
Hardy Receives Acclaim
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