— Ex-NFL, Indiana WR James Hardy found dead in river
— The Allen County (Indiana) Coroner’s Office on Thursday identified the body of a man found in the Maumee River on Wednesday as former Buffalo Bills receiver James Hardy.
The coroner says the former Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens player was reported missing a few weeks ago by relatives. His body was discovered Wednesday in the Maumee River in Fort Wayne.
The body of former IU football star and NFL draft pick James Hardy was found in the Maumee River Wednesday in Allen County.
According to the county coroner’s office, the body of the 31-year-old Fort Wayne native was found about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the Hosey Dam, at in the 800 block of North Anthony Boulevard in Fort Wayne.
Officer Mike Joyner of the Fort Wayne Police Department said Hardy’s mother reported him missing May 30.
An employee with the city’s water filtration plant made the discovery as he walked along the catwalk on his regular rounds.
A water rescue team rushed to the scene, but the strong current made recovery of the body difficult. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources was called in to assist.
Hardy’s body was recovered from a logjam and pulled free around 5 p.m., officials said. It appeared that the body had been in the water for some time.
Michael Burris, chief investigator for the Allen County coroner’s office, said Hardy’s cause and manner of death remain under investigation. The Fort Wayne Police Department also is working to determine if any foul play was involved.
Hardy was a record-setting standout for the Hoosiers from 2005-07, amassing 2,740 yards and 36 receiving touchdowns before entering the NFL draft. He led the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns in both 2006 and 2007.
He was an instrumental figure in the Hoosiers’ drive to the 2007 Insight Bowl, Indiana’s first postseason appearance to that point in 14 years, just months after the death of coach Terry Hoeppner.
“Coach Hep really connected with James, and got him excited about football, the opportunity he had in football, the potential he had,” said Bill Lynch, who coached at IU under Hoeppner and then steered the Hoosiers after his death. “He was a very good player, but by (2007), he was a great college football player. In the Big Ten, when people were getting ready to play us, they had to figure out a way to stop James Hardy. He was a dominant-type guy.”
His bond with Hoeppner, Lynch said, strengthened Hardy’s resolve and impact as a leader in his fourth and final college season.
“That was such a unique year on campus, with coach Hep passing away that summer,” Lynch said. “I’ve never been around a team where people came together like that group. When your star player had that kind of a relationship with coach Hep, he became a leader on that football team.”
Hardy spoke at Hoeppner’s memorial service about the impact the former IU coach had on him, calling him a “father figure.”
A two-sport star at Elmhurst High School, Hardy finished third in the voting for IndyStar Mr. Basketball in 2004. He was part of an Elmhurst football team that broke the longest losing streak in state history, 64 games, with a win over Bishop Dwenger, on Aug. 22, 2003.
Hardy was a highly touted basketball player coming out of Elmhurst. He redshirted the 2004 football season, but started three times that winter for IU’s basketball team, averaging 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He did not play basketball for Indiana after the 2004-05 season, electing to concentrate full-time on football.
Elmhurst High School closed in 2010.
Hardy was selected by Buffalo in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft and played 16 total games for the Bills from 2008-09, recording 10 catches for 96 yards and two scores. He also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens, though he never played for the franchise in a regular-season game.
IU’s athletic department released a statement of condolence Thursday afternoon.
“IU Athletics is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of James Hardy,” it read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this difficult time.”
So too did the Buffalo Bills organization, saying simply: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of James Hardy today. We send our condolences to the Hardy family as they deal with this tragic loss.”
In May 2008, just after the end of his college career, Hardy pulled a gun during an argument with his father, according to a news report at the time. Charges were not filed in the incident.
In May 2014, Hardy was arrested after attacking three police officers, but a judge ruled he was not mentally competent to stand trial.