Hardy Aims for Next Level
Aug. 9, 2007
His name is already all over the IU Football record books. Most touchdowns in a game. Second-most touchdowns in a season and in a career. One of four players with 200 receiving yards in a contest.
Though he's only a junior, James Hardy has already established himself as one of the top wideouts in school history. But in his eyes, he's still just a novice at his position.
"I can honestly say I was a basketball player coming to Indiana, when I had my scholarship going into my senior year, and I just ended up switching," Hardy said. "This is my opportunity. Coach Hep put it in perspective to see that I was special as a football player. I always thought basketball would be my outlet and with me being a young receiver, I need to see what I need to do to become better. I'm so young, I was so inexperienced, and everything that I've done the past couple of years has been off my raw ability."
No one who has seen him play would question his raw ability. At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Hardy is one of the biggest receivers in the nation. And now he is working hard to do all he can to become one of the best.
"[I need to] be consistent, stay healthy, go to treatments more often," Hardy said. "Doing the little things that we need to do to get over the hump. And I feel that this is, by far, the best shape I have been in coming into camp, as well as other individuals, so now we are ready to go."
Hardy isn't just working in the weight room and on the field, though. He has started to work on improving his game in other ways - mainly by trying to pick up the subtleties of the position from the best resources he can find. One of these resources is watching tape of last year's top college receiver, Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson.
"Calvin Johnson was the best in the country last year," Hardy said. "That is my goal and you have to watch the best to be the best. I just need to see it in order for me to do it. With me being a receiver, no one ever sat down with me and told me the little things that I needed to know, so I'm trying to soak up as much information as I can to make me a player each and every day. And since he (Calvin) is number one, that's who I wanted to watch."
Hardy also spent his own money to go to one of the nation's elite camps over the summer, attending NFL trainer Tom Shaw's workout camp. Shaw has worked with some of the top players in college football and the NFL in his time, and Hardy knew the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"Any opportunity that I have to get better, going down there with the pros - those are the best in the world - I'll take it," said the Fort Wayne native. "If they tell me all my flaws and show me what I need to do and show me how hard I need to work so I can compete at that level, any opportunity I have I'm going to take it. I had the opportunity and I went down there for a couple of weeks and it helped me tremendously."
There, Hardy worked with some of the best in the NFL and came away with a much greater understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. But the person he learned the most from was not a wide receiver, but five-year veteran cornerback Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"He really sat me down and told me what I need to work on, especially as a big receiver with most of the corners being small. I spoke to him and expressed that I was really inexperienced at this position and I'm just trying to get better each and every day. The guys at that level, when they see somebody that wants to work and wants to get better, they help you as much as they possibly can. For the most part, mentally, he was the one who helped me."
In addition to working on his own, Hardy has continued to work with his quarterback, Kellen Lewis. Entering their first training camp with both on the top unit, the two have done everything they can to maintain the chemistry that they built throughout the 2006 season.
"Me and Blake had the chemistry when Kellen came in, and me and Kellen were really on two different tracks," Hardy said. "As you could see in the Ball State game, there were a lot of balls that just weren't there - I wasn't in the spot where he threw it, he didn't throw it to the spot that I thought it was supposed to be to. It took us a few games to get jelled and it really came together toward the end of the season. As a duo, I feel Purdue was our best game, but it was our last game. So we just went into the summer knowing we had to get better so we wouldn't miss a beat so we can give our fans something to see the first game and the rest of the season."
Statistically, he's one of the best to ever don an IU uniform. Personally, he's still learning the ropes in a sport that he is still getting used to. But with the work he's put in to move to the next level, his raw talent and work ethic could lead to Hardy rewriting the record books as a junior.
"Those 10 touchdowns [last year], I look at it as if I should have had 20," he said. "Statistic-wise it was the same (as my freshman year), but I'm a totally different player this year. I have high expectations of myself, I worked tremendously hard this offseason, and I want to go out and show everybody how hard I worked. Statistics from the past two years are out of my mind and I'm trying to double them."
Should the star receiver accomplish that goal, he and Lewis will certainly have given Hoosier fans all over something to see in 2007.
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