Indiana has had its share of talented pass catchers, sending several wide receivers to the NFL through the years. But only one is the program’s all-time leading receiver in virtually every major category.
James Hardy was consistently dominant for three straight seasons at Indiana, but if there was any question as to whether he should be on this list, his senior season put him over the top: 79 catches, 1,125 yards and 16 touchdowns. Save for one really strong season by Ernie Jones, no other receiver in program history even comes close to that production.
But he wasn’t a one hit wonder by any means. Hardy led the team in receiving for three straight seasons from 2005 to 2007, securing 61, 51 and 79 catches, and 893, 722 and 1,125 yards in those campaigns.
What really made Hardy special was his big play ability. He had double digit touchdowns (10, 10, 16) in each season as well. His touchdown total is fourth best among all players in program history. He also has the 3rd most career receiving touchdowns in Big Ten history.
In a list full of kickers and running backs, his scoring output for the 2007 season is actually the 7th most points scored in a season in program history.
After that magical 2007 season, Hardy became IU’s first All-America receiver in 20 years when he picked up second team honors from the Walter Camp Foundation. He was also first team All-Big Ten and a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. The competition at wide receiver was stiff in 2007 for national recognition with the likes of Michael Crabtree, Jordy Nelson, Percy Harvin, and Jeremy Maclin also in the mix.
What really made Hardy special and ultimately worthy of this list was the fact that he did it all without a great quarterback. Nothing against Blake Powers or Kellen Lewis — but for three straight years the offense at Indiana was “get the ball to James Hardy.”
Double teams, triple teams, it didn’t matter. Hardy was bigger and faster, and he could high point a football with the best of them.
Great quarterbacks often make receivers look good, but for three years at Indiana, it was the other way around. In 2007, more than a third of Lewis’ completions and more than half of his touchdowns went to Hardy. Everyone knew where the ball was going, and no one could stop him.
Hardy is the king of the Indiana receiving record books in just about every conceivable area:
- Career receptions (191)
- Career receiving touchdowns (36)
- Career receiving yards (2,740)
- Season receptions (79)
- Season receiving touchdowns (16)
- Most ever 100+ yard receiving games (14)
A special athlete, Hardy also played one season for the IU men’s basketball team in 2004-05.
James Hardy was a second round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2007 NFL Draft. He passed away at the young age of 31 in 2017.
Prior IU greats on the list:
#10 — John Isenbarger
#9 — Dan Feeney
You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier