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Just wanted to pass along some observations about Bills second-round pick James Hardy from Indiana.
Let me start by saying that I’m a sportswriter here in Indiana and IU football is one of my fall beats. I went to just about every home game the past couple seasons in Bloomington and also went to the Insight Bowl this past season out in Arizona.
So, I’ve seen Hardy up close a lot. And before he was at IU, a good friend of mine from Fort Wayne, who worked at one of the dailies there, told me about this kid named James Hardy — who at that time was Fort Wayne’s version of LeBron James.
Hardy was a great basketball player before football. In fact, he only took up football in his junior season of high school to help out a cousin of his who was coaching F.W. Elmhurst — one of the worst football programs in the entire history of high school football. And I’m not kidding.
When I was working in The Fort for two years, I NEVER saw Elmhurst win a single game. I believe at one point they lost something like 60 straight games and set a state record for futility.
Why do you care?
Well, because Hardy made a big difference there. In his senior season, they even won four games — which was a huge accomplishment. He went down to IU to play both football and basketball, but after a year of hoops he gave it up and concentrated on football — where he obviously had the best shot of making it to the professional ranks.
In short, Hardy has terrorized the IU receiving record books since the day he stepped onto the field at Memorial Stadium. He might not be the quickest guy off the line. He might not have bulging pipes. But he is easily the tallest guy on the field roaming through the secondary, and QBs can’t miss him. He also knows how to shake defenders and has solid hands to go with that vertical leap.
He should be a red zone nightmare for opposing D-coordinators.
He does come with some drawbacks, of course. Who doesn’t?
In the past, he’s quit on some routes and been bumped off others too easily — leading to bad INTs. He’s not the physically strongest guy on the field, either, not does he have blazing speed like Randy Moss.
He did have one scrape with the law between his freshman and sophomore seasons — in which he was originally accused of shoving his child’s mother while she was supposedly holding the baby.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that since that incident, he hasn’t had any known run-ins with the law. He did get suspended for a couple of games in deceased former IU coach Terry Hoeppner’s final season — for unspecified reasons. But it was sort of leaked that Hardy’s attitude needed an adjustment when it came to getting along with then new QB Kellen Lewis.
They worked it out, and then started dominating defenses.
Put it this way … Hardy still had a year of eligibility left at IU and was only a couple of TD catches away from setting the all-time Big Ten record for career TD grabs. Former Michgan star Braylon Edwards holds the record and another former Michigan star, Anthony Carter is second.
Both of them needed four seasons to get where they got. Had Hardy returned, he likely would have set the new record so far out there that it might never have been broken again.
And that was all for a fledgling young Big Ten team that just made a bowl game last season for the first time in 13 years!
Hardy’s probably not going to stretch the field too much for the Bills in the NFL, but he should be a big factor picking up key first downs and, of course, touchdowns.
Should be fun to watch him …