A standout athlete (throwing the shot put 55-11 and discus 106-10) for the Kimberly track and field team as well as the 69th-best defensive end in the country by Scout.com, Mike Hardy gets dozens of letters from college coaches wanting to talk to him, and the talented prospect enjoys every minute of it.
"I sit down and read every letter and it's really exciting," Hardy told Badger Nation. "Just knowing the feeling that I have five Big Ten offers and two Big XII offers is really exciting."
Helping the Papermakers to back-to-back 14-0 seasons, repeating as WIAA Division 2 State Champions in the process, Hardy (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) registered 10 tackles for loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles and one blocked punt, a season performance that saw his recruitment take off.
"Right now I have seven offers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Purdue and Nebraska," Hardy said. "I have visited everyone but Indiana and Nebraska because their offers came later. I really like my offers and I sat down with my parents and coaches to talk things over.
"Right now, my top three have to be Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin."
While some players chose to keep their high school coaches at an arm's length during the recruiting process, Hardy has kept Kimberly Coach Steve Jorgensen in the loop, as Jorgensen has not only done the basics like help with the highlight videos and walked Hardy through the process, but been an important key to Hardy getting some of his offers.
"Coach Jorgensen talks to all the coaches and knows them pretty well," Hardy explained. "He told me if he thought what they were telling me was the truth. He told me some things that have gone wrong in the recruiting process, which helped me to know what to look out for. It helped me think about what is best for me."
One school that Jorgensen has been talking to a lot recently has been Wisconsin and assistant coach Bob Bostad. Bostad, who has had a hand in UW's first three verbal commits for the 2010 cycle, has been one of the many coaches guilty of stuffing the Hardy mailbox on a weekly basis.
"We email back and forth and I call him once and awhile," Hardy said. "He has come to my school a few times to look at me. We have a pretty good relationship because I have been down to Madison three times so far. Just by talking to him over the phone and knowing the coaches has developed our relationship.
Those three visits have come in the form of two junior days and being invited by Coach Bret Bielema to a spring practices this year; a trip that garnered Hardy his Wisconsin offer.
The coaching staff originally wanted Hardy to come to its summer camp in order to evaluate him. By that time, however, Hardy had offers from Iowa State, Minnesota and Purdue and was, more than likely, not going to do any camps this summer. With that, the Badgers switched their whole recruiting process on him, having Hardy come to a spring practice, sit down with him and his parents and offer the scholarship.
"When you grow up, you want to be a Badger," Hardy said. "Every little kid has that dream of becoming a Badger. Just knowing that I could be a Badger is a good feeling."
Wanting to make his decision by July, Hardy plans on taking a closer look his favorites in order to make his decision in confidence. After that, Hardy's goal is simple – bring a third state title to the college of his choice.
"I just want to get all this off my mind and focus on football again," Hardy said. "I just want to play hard for my team, get back down to state and, hopefully, win another one."