IOWA CITY, Ia. – As Mike Hardy stood in Iowa’s indoor football facility Tuesday, loyalty to his home state was clutched in one hand. It was a Green Bay Packers stocking cap.
He used to have a Wisconsin stocking cap, too, and a Badgers football jersey. No. 33, worn by Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne.
“I was a Badger fan,” said Hardy, who is from Appleton, Wis. “We were all Badger fans. But that’s easy to change.”
Hardy was offered a scholarship by Wisconsin as a junior at Kimberly High School.
“But I wasn’t going to be one of those guys who committed right away just because it was the Badgers,” Hardy said. “I wanted to look at my options.”
Hardy, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end, also received offers from Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana before selecting the Hawkeyes.
“I liked the coaches and the atmosphere,” Hardy said.
A redshirt junior, it’s been a long journey for Hardy to get on the field. But he’ll be starting his second straight game at right defensive end, in place of the injured Dominic Alvis (back), when Iowa hosts Wisconsin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ABC or ESPN2, depending on the market.
“Is it personal for me?” Hardy said of the game with the Badgers. “It would be nice to win, to be able to go home and say we beat them. But I’m not going to look at it any differently than I would any other game. I’ll let my family and friends do that.”
When Hardy arrived on campus as a true freshman, guys like Adrian Clayborn and Karl Klug were anchors in the defensive line.
“I knew I wasn’t going to come in right away and play,” Hardy said. “Every year, I got on the field more and more.”
Hardy stepped into the starting lineup after Alvis injured his back in the first half of the Ohio State game Oct. 19. He made his first career start in last week’s 17-10 overtime victory over Northwestern. Hardy had a sack and two tackles for a loss.
“I thought Mike played his best game on Saturday,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And Alvis was there as Hardy’s security blanket.
“He’s behind me 100 percent,” Hardy said. “He knew he couldn’t play. But all through practice last week he was by my side, giving me pointers.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football