Notre Dame football recruiting class of 2011 was a special day. While Tina was happy about her son's choice of school, she tried to be a parent and guide during the entire recruiting process without getting in the way.
"I truly was just a guide for Eilar during the whole process. From day one, Eilar said he just did not know how he was going to make his decision. Therefore, I told him let us sit down and list his top five and list all the pros and cons of each program. So we sat down and I asked him what was important to him? Right away I knew proximity from home, the major he was interested in and the support from the school were all major things and important."
"During the process Eilar got tremendous support from the schools that were recruiting him, however, his relationships he had with the different coaches and the students he came in contact with were also important."
"All I tried to do was guide him and stress to him not to pick a school because of its name. Notre Dame has a name, Notre Dame means something to a lot of people, but it could not be the reason for him to choose the school if it was not the right fit for him."
"After visiting twice, Eilar felt it was a good fit and the best thing for his future. I am sure some of the other schools could have also been a good choice, but ultimately, when you look at the pros and cons of all the schools he was looking at, Notre Dame was the one he felt the most comfortable with and was his choice. To me, Notre Dame was his best choice and I would have chosen Notre Dame also."
You Must Finish
While Tina Hardy makes it no secret of her happiness of her son's choice of Notre Dame, she has stressed to him the importance of not just going to Notre Dame, but to finish at Notre Dame.
"With Notre Dame it is all about the academics. You can be a football player all you want up to a certain degree, but you cannot take away the academics. Once you have that paper in your hand from Notre Dame, it will mean everything for your future. This was very important as I feel he could still have a good future not going to Notre Dame, but there are so many good things about Notre Dame that it highly out weights any other choice."
"This was still his choice to make and I always told him wherever he goes, he must be successful and that he must finish. You cannot just go to college. You must finish college. When all this started, we never knew it was going to get this big. We know we have been very blessed for Eilar to have this great opportunity and he fully understands this."
Impressed About Notre Dame
For Tina Hardy the impression she first got about Notre Dame changed as she learned more about the school and the way of life for a student athlete.
"I have now been to Notre Dame a couple of times. Before Eilar made his commitment there, I had only been there once. You hear so much about Notre Dame and there is so much hype with Notre Dame, but once you get there and talk with other people and do the research on Notre Dame, you come away very impressed with it. Not only was I impressed with the campus and everything around it, but I was also impressed with the Irish coaching staff and how up front they were with us and how they interacted with Eilar."
From Cincinnati To South Bend
Brian Kelly made an early impression of the Hardy family when he was the coach at Cincinnati. The early bond between the Hardy family and the Irish head coach, played off huge when it came time for Eilar to make his college choice.
"We first got to meet Coach Kelly when he was at Cincinnati. They made a great effort and made it a point to make the whole family comfortable. They did not just recruit Eilar, they showed interest in the whole family, and I feel that played a very important role. Had this not happened, I am not sure I would have ever been comfortable having my son in the hands of people who did not care about the parents.
"The relationships started in Cincinnati, and we were honored the coaches still had interest in Eilar after Coach Kelly had gone to Notre Dame. We know they did not have to do that, but they made it a point to go after Eilar and I thought that was good. I know it made me very happy."
Getting That Special Feeling
Many times when talking with recruits and their families they speak about the special feeling they get when they are on campus. When did Tina Hardy start to get the feeling for Notre Dame and all it has to offer?
"I can honestly say it did not happen at first. We went to a couple of places on campus like the church, dome, and Touchdown Jesus. I am a very spiritual person, so in that respect, yes, I really felt great in those places. My first time there was not a great and sunny day and it seemed like just another campus. Therefore, I did not get those goose bumps and the warm fuzzy feeling at first.
However, the night he called me after he committed to Notre Dame, I asked if he was sure about Notre Dame. He said this is it mom. I asked him again if he was sure because he was very close to picking another college. He said he was and I could tell in his words that he really meant it. This is when I got the goose bumps, because my son was going to Notre Dame, it was his choice to go there, and I knew he would be going to the place he wanted to be at."
From Cincinnati to Notre Dame, one thing stayed the same, Tim Hinton. The Irish running back coach was the lead recruiter for Eilar at Cincinnati and that did not change when hired at Notre Dame. How much of a bond had the Hardy family and Coach Hinton built over the years?
"Coach Hinton was fantastic to us at Cincinnati and Notre Dame. He catered to us and answered all of our questions. Anytime a person shows the kind of attention and closeness to your son Coach Hinton had with Eilar, you know they are not just looking at you as a football player."
"Coach Hinton was never standoffish and was always right there. He made Eilar feel wonderful and was so assessable we knew we could get in touch with him at anytime. Not just Eilar, but the whole family."
"During the process from Cincinnati to Notre Dame, Tim Hinton was our man. When we arrived on campus, he was there to greet us, stay with us, and show us things as a family. He was a part of us and genuinely was a person we felt a great closeness to as well as Eilar feeling close to him. You could tell he was not putting on a show, he would talk about his family, and I love it when people talk about their family because I love my family. Coach Hinton did not just talk football. He would talk about his daughters and I love it when a male football coach talks about their daughters, do not get me wrong, I like it when a coach talks football, but I also love it when they talk about their kids and family."
In The Heart Of Buckeye Country
Coming from Pickerington, Ohio, Tina knows about the diehard fan base of The Ohio State University and pressure some athletes get from not attending the home state school. Have there ever been any words said about Eilar's choice of Notre Dame?
"There are some diehard Ohio State fans here and it has been very interesting. Ohio State fans are verbal in their support for Ohio State, most of them are my friends, and they have said things about Eilar going to Notre Dame. However, in the same breath, they also say gosh, your son is going to Notre Dame."
"I have a very good friend of mine and I had never met her husband who is a diehard Ohio State fan. So she tells me she wanted me to meet her husband. Now I could tell he did not want to meet me after he learned Eilar was going to Notre Dame. So we get some people whom say things, but in the same breath, you just cannot say anything bad about Notre Dame. I do hear some remarks under their breath, but for the most part they are my friends and they are really excited about Eilar going to Notre Dame."
Eilar Must Take With Him
When asked if there was something Eilar must take when he leaves for Notre Dame, Tina Hardy was quick in her response knowing she would send her son off with the same item her other son left with for college.
"He will leave with a little piece of paper, a note from me that I will give him. It is a bible verse, and something I have said to him many times. It is something he must take with him. It many sound corny to some people, however, I did it for my other son, and they are words from the bible I want him to keep close to him no matter what. I want him to keep it throughout his college career. It says he is more than a conqueror. I will write it down and give it to him and tell him to keep it with him at all times."
Note: I would like to thank Tina Hardy for the time she shared with me for this article. We look forward to giving our members more in-depth looks at future members of the Irish Football program.