When James Hardy was a high school freshman he decided to put away his football cleats for awhile and focus strictly on basketball, the sport in which he saw the most potential for himself at the time. It was a reluctant decision and one that he won't have to make when he comes to play basketball at Indiana next fall. That's because the IU football program recently extended a football scholarship to the stand-out wide receiver from Fort Wayne and he intends on taking them up on that offer.
"Probably just this year towards the middle of this football season did I begin to think that it would be possible to play both sports at IU," says Hardy. "Football has always been my favorite sport, but I always got more attention from basketball so I focused on that more.
"I plan on signing with the football team in February. We still have to work out all the specifics, but I know that if I take the football scholarship that I will stay with them the whole season and then join the basketball team when it is over."
Hardy, who turns 18 this Wednesday, is coming off a football season in which he was named an All-SAC wide receiver after catching 34 passes for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns. At 6'7 Hardy is the tall, athletic receiver that football coaches dream about and it was only a matter of time before DiNardo and the Hoosiers became involved.
"I found about two and a half weeks ago that they were going to offer the football scholarship," says Hardy. "Coach DiNardo came and visited me and we just sat down and talked about the program. He was interested in me and I was interested in playing football at IU so we just had a good conversation about that."
"Coach Davis has been supportive. He knows that I am good in both sports and he says that if football is still in my mind then go for it as long as I still play basketball."
For Hardy it will be the best of both worlds as the Fort Wayne Elmhurst High School senior has a strong passion for both sports. He quit playing football after his eighth-grade year, but when his cousin/guardian Roosevelt Norfleet got the football head coaching job his junior year he happily returned to the gridiron.
"I just wanted to be a better basketball player than football, but then when my cousin got job at Elmhurst I went back to playing football," says Hardy. "That's was always my first love and it felt good to be back playing again.
"This year I told myself that if I got the opportunity and I think I would be ready to play and compete in college at both sports then I should go for it."
Hardy committed to the basketball team back in June, but never signed a letter-of-intent with the program which had a lot of people wondering. Hardy says there was never any doubt about him playing basketball at IU and that he was simply waiting to see if he would be able to continue playing football.
"I wasn't really sure if I was going to get any football scholarships from colleges so that is why I just waited to see," says Hardy. "(Coach Norfleet) told me that Purdue and Illinois keep calling about me playing both sports for them and I just waited for IU because I wanted to go there. I didn't want to go anywhere else because I wanted to play IU basketball. Then it happened like a month ago and I started to realize that I was actually going to do both."
There's no doubt that playing both sports in the physical Big Ten conference will be a huge challenge for Hardy, but it's a challenge he relishes.
"Oh yeah, I think about (the hard work involved) all the time, but I feel like when I put my heart into something I can accomplish it."
T.J. King is a writer for Inside Indiana Magazine.
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