Over the past couple of weeks, Kimberly defensive end Mike Hardy has experience both worlds.
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 that saw his recruitment take off with scholarship offers from Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
After narrowing his choice down to three schools, Hardy eventually made his choice to play for head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, a decision that enhances the Iowa defensive line and leaves Badger fans, and members of Hardy's family, scratching their heads.
Badger Nation caught up with Hardy to talk about his decision to go out of state to play for the rival school of his childhood favorite team.
Badger Nation: Congratulations on making your college decision. Can you tell me what lead to the decision? The last time we talked, it was Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin that were your three favorites. What put Iowa over the top?
Mike Hardy: It was the coaches. Coach Ferentz is so experienced and has been there awhile and has had plenty of winning seasons. Coach Doyle, their strength and conditioning coach, is one of the best that there is. That's the field I want to go into – become a strength and conditioning coach. If I can intern with him, I would have a great shot at getting a job after college. I like their campus and their city. You can walk around the whole thing in 20 minutes. It's big, but it's compact and it's all right there. Iowa City is the biggest city, but not hectic. It reminds me a lot of Kimberly, which makes it a lot like home.
Badger Nation: It's obviously your decision and nobody else's choice, but your coach has a big impact on your recruiting process, according to you. Did he like all three schools, did he prefer one more than the other and what did he think of your choice?
Hardy: He liked all three schools, but you can tell that they kind of wanted me to go to Wisconsin. I just didn't feel right going there. My strength coach went down with me and my parents to Iowa on Friday and we sat down with the coaches and talk about stuff. Then on the car ride home, he was excited with all the coaches. Before he liked it, he met the coaches, realized they were all good guys and helped put everything over the top. Coach Ferentz outlook things, I think, made him understand how much better the coaches are here than the other guys. I think they were all pretty comfortable with me going here.
Badger Nation: You said that Wisconsin didn't feel right. What about it didn't mesh with you?
Hardy: You know, I went to two junior days there and both juniors days we got there and talked to some of the coaches. Like, they didn't ignore me, but they didn't spend much time talking to me. Me and my parents really just sat there and followed along. I don't know. A lot of people say, ‘So, you are from Wisconsin, why don't you want to go play for Wisconsin?' I compared all these other schools that I have offers from and it was no competition. Iowa is definitely better, for me anyway, than Wisconsin.
Badger Nation: Is that hard for you that you have to deal with that? You are Wisconsin guy, grew up following the Badgers and now you are going out of state and people question why. Do you feel it's like people want you to play in a situation where you aren't comfortable and you have to defend your decision?
Hardy: Yeah, that's probably the hardest part. All my family, aunts and uncles, have been asking me why I am going to Iowa and not Wisconsin. The only thing they see are the Badgers playing on Saturdays and winning and everything. Of course they like Wisconsin and want you to go to Wisconsin, but they don't see all the behind the scenes stuff that I have seen or talk to the coaches like I do. They have a different outlook on it than I do, of course, because I see these things. It's not there future, it's my future, and I need to do what's best for myself.
Badger Nation: What kind of player is Iowa getting? What kind of player do you think you are bringing to the Hawkeye line?
Hardy: I am a hard worker, which my coaches always tell me. I go to practice early, I stay late and I do what's best for myself in the weight room. I spend a ton of time with my strength and conditioning coach. I am very dedicated, I play very hard, I study my film and I use my hands really well. A lot of coaches told me that I use my hands really well and I feel like I can make an impact.