Indiana's James Hardy followed up his final year of collegiate ball with an impressive offseason showing to put himself in position for first-round consideration in this year's draft. In fact, one prominent AFC head coach recently stated that he felt that Hardy was the number one receiver in this year's draft class.
A league source has told Scout.com that the 6-foot-6, 217-pound wide receiver visited the Steelers and the Eagles last week. And this week, his stops have already included Cincinnati and St. Louis, with the Cowboys on tap for Wednesday prior to wrapping up the week in Baltimore with the Ravens on Thursday.
In an exclusive interview with Scout.com, Hardy explained what makes him tick.
"I love to watch film, I love to be in the weight room, and I ask my coach exactly what I need to do to be the best," he said. "My determination to be the best — that's what drives me every day."
During his senior year, Hardy caught 79 passes for 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns. But the individual statistics don't mean as much to him as team accomplishments.
"I was actually going to Indiana for basketball and ended up switching to football, and I looked at it as a challenge," he explained. "Everybody knows it's a basketball state, and going to a school that hasn't won more than four or five games in over thirteen years was a challenge that I had to dedicate myself to.
"I did the best that I could possibly do to help us get to a bowl game. And I did that. Honestly, out of all the accomplishments, that's the one that stands out to me. As long as we get the Ws, statistics really don't matter."
Hardy is quick to compliment his teammates rather than focus on his own talents. During his college career he had the opportunity to square-off day after day in practice against one of the top cornerbacks in this year's draft — Tracy Porter.
James Hardy catches a pass at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
"It's been a privilege for me to be around him for the last four years because he's helped me become the receiver that I am," he said. "In practice I want to go against the best, so I know what I have to do to get better.
"Tracy motivated me and pushed me, and I know he feels the same way. There's been a lot of words exchanged, a couple of scuffles, but it's all been in love and it's just been to get us better for the next level. I wish him the best as well."
After an off-the-field incident in May of 2006 when he was charged with domestic battery, Hardy plead not guilty and settled his case through a diversion agreement. The experience made a significant impression on his development as a man. As a result, he has committed himself to his family and to being a role model in whatever NFL city he lands in after this month's draft.
"I want to change the community, whatever city I'm in," he said. "In my hometown, I was a kid who came from nothing and who didn't have that many people to look up to and be a role model. I want to give back to the kids, because I feel each individual at this high level that everyone looks at has to give back to the kids, because they are our future. I have a son, and I know how I felt not having my father around for ten years in my life."
Hardy also has another important goal in mind for his NFL career, but this one he'll be addressing when he puts on his helmet and his pads. He wants to be the top receiver in the National Football League, learning from the best and honing his skills so that he eventually stands atop the league's most talented pass-catchers.
"I want to be an inspiration to others and show them you can do exactly what you want to do if you put your mind to it, as long as you put God first," he explained. "As far as being a receiver, you're looking at a guy that is nowhere near his peak. I want to be the best, and my determination in everything I've ever done is always to be the best, and I'm not going to stop.
"I'm going to keep striving until I'm the number one receiver in the NFL. I've always been the type of guy that learns as much as I possibly can as long as I have the coaches and everyone that actually believes in me. I dedicate my life first to God — secondly, to my job and my family. That's the whole total package that you will get when you get James Hardy."