Bloomington, Ind. – Tell me if you've heard this one before.
The Indiana football program has uncovered a talented Ft. Wayne, Ind., product who's first love is basketball, but who's future now appears to be football. He'll arrive on campus this fall with the hopes of utilizing unusual height and athleticism to develop into a special wideout at the Big Ten level.
That sounds like the well-chronicled story of James Hardy, the former top-100 prep basketball talent who came to Bloomington 3 1/2 years ago on a football scholarship. After spending two seasons doubling up in football and basketball, Hardy eventually turned his attention to football and is now a potential first-round NFL Draft pick.
But we're not talking about Hardy. Instead, we're talking about the newest member of IU's 2008 recruiting class, Demarlo Belcher.
The 6-5, 210-pound Ft. Wayne Northside product signed with the Hoosiers a couple of weeks ago, becoming a late addition to IU's '08 class. Belcher was unable to sign in February because he hadn't been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse, but a recently-completed off-campus class has resolved that issue and Belcher is now Bloomington bound.
Belcher had always hoped of someday playing at the collegiate level, but he thought basketball would be his ticket. While he averaged 18 points and was among the state's leaders with 12.5 rebounds/game in 2007, much of the interest he was receiving was at the mid-major level.
"I was like James – I really wanted to go school for basketball," Belcher said.
Without a great deal of high major interest, some positive feedback from Big Ten football coaches prompted a difficult choice the day before Belcher was set to leave for prep school last fall. Instead of going to prep school in Atlanta to play basketball, he instead decided to commit to playing football instead.
"It was hard (to make that change) because my passion was basketball," said Belcher, who set a North Side H.S. school record with 688 receiving yards in 2006 while earning second-team all-conference honors. "But my coach came to me and said I could make it in football. I started sending my highlight film to coaches and a whole bunch started calling me and that's when I changed my mind."
He also had Hardy as a perfect example of someone who decided to follow his head instead of his heart, and now has an opportunity to make a living playing football. Belcher and Hardy were AAU basketball teammates four years ago, and Belcher has followed the former Ft. Wayne Elmhurst standout's rise.
Hardy also spoke with Belcher about the idea of turning his attention to football, where his attributes make him stand out in the crowd.
"I'm only 6-5, and there aren't too many 6-5 players in the NBA who are going to be playing my position," Belcher said. "But my height in football is one of a kind."
Well, maybe two of a kind. With Hardy moving on to the NFL next fall, Belcher will be one of a handful of freshman wideouts who will be arriving in August with hopes of making an immediate impact. It figures to be a hotly-contested battle, but there's undoubtedly an opportunity for some new faces to make an impact.
"I want to play, I want to start this season, so that's what I'm going to try to do," Belcher said. "I'll get down there and work hard and do what I have to do to play in August."
While Belcher will be spending his time preparing for his future in football, he hasn't given up his first love. He said he still plays basketball every day, and doesn't foresee himself putting it down anytime soon.
But football has provided him with the sort of collegiate opportunity he coveted, and it was too good to pass up.
"All my basketball offers were MAC schools, and I thought why not go higher?" Belcher said.
Belcher Talks About IU Pledge
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