Former IU receiver James Hardy found dead in Fort Wayne

The body of former Indiana receiver James Hardy was found Wednesday in a Fort Wayne river, the Allen County Coroner’s office has confirmed.

According to the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Public Information Office, Hardy’s body was discovered by a city employee who was conducting a routine check of facilities at the Hosey Dam. While walking along a catwalk at the water filtration plant, the employee noticed a foul odor coming from the Maumee River below and saw a body in a logjam in the water. [more below video]

The Fort Wayne Fire Department’s Water Rescue team recovered the body and Hardy was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the coroner’s office, the cause and manner of death are pending further investigation.

Hardy’s family members reported him as a missing person on May 30. He was 31 years old.

Because the body was recovered in a waterway, the Department of Natural Resources is the investigative agency in the case.

IU released a statement on Hardy’s death Thursday.

“Indiana University Athletics is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of James Hardy,” the statement read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”

Hardy starred for the Hoosiers from 2005 through 2007, helping Indiana to an appearance in the 2007 Insight Bowl — the program’s first bowl trip in 14 years.

He remains the program’s leader in career receiving yards (2,740), receptions (191) and receiving touchdowns (36), and Hardy also holds single-season records for receptions (79) and touchdowns (16).

After the 2007 season, Hardy was a first team All-Big Ten selection and also earned All-America honors from Associated Press, SI.com, Rivals.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Hardy came to Indiana as a multi-sport prep star at Elmhurst High School, where he was also a standout basketball player. Hardy also played basketball for the Hoosiers, lettering during the 2004-05 season after averaging 1.7 points, 1.8 rebounds and 10.7 minutes per game. He appeared in 23 contests, starting three times and scoring a career-high seven points in games against Purdue and Vanderbilt.

Former Indiana coach Bill Lynch, who joined Terry Hoeppner’s football staff in 2005 before taking control of the program after Hoeppner’s death in 2007, remembers the bond Hardy developed with Hoeppner during his time in Bloomington.

After Hardy redshirted during the 2004 football season, Hoeppner connected with the Fort Wayne native and helped him believe he could blossom as a Big Ten receiver entering the 2005 campaign.

“I thought coach Hep really had a tremendous influence on James,” Lynch said. “James probably thought he was more of a basketball player coming out of high school than a football player. Terry really saw where this guy had tremendous potential in football.

“He was a good kid. He just needed someone to make him believe that. They developed a really close relationship, I know that. He was a great player that was really an important part of holding the group of guys together after coach Hep died. I think there was a loyalty there that was pretty special.”

The Buffalo Bills selected Hardy in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He spent merely two seasons with Buffalo, making only 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns in 16 total games.

The Bills also released a statement Thursday, offering support for the Hardy family.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of James Hardy today,” the statement read. “We send our condolences to the Hardy family as they deal with this tragic loss.”

After Buffalo released Hardy in 2010, he went to training camp with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, but was nagged by hamstring issues and did not make the team.

In 2014, Hardy was arrested after resisting arrest and attacking three police officers in Los Angeles. A judge reportedly ruled that Hardly was not mentally competent to stand trial in the case.

“It’s so sad. It’s so unexpected,” Lynch said. “I feel so bad for James’ family and all the friends that he’s had. He was a special guy, he really was. I always really enjoyed him and enjoyed working with him.”

6 comments

  1. One of the most amazing athletes I’ve ever watched play. Almost impossible to cover on the football field. Walked on to the basketball team and into the starting lineup.

    A checkered post college life. I seem to recall an involuntary committal to a mental health facility.

    Very sad.

  2. This is a sad day for IUFB, fans, and his family. I have read he struggled with his mental health so he is now in peace. He will be remember by IUFB fans as one of the best and most exciting WRs in the programs history.

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