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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

James Hardy's death ruled suicide by drowning

James Hardy, then a Buffalo Bills wide receiver, left, watches the 2009 Elmhurst High School girls basketball team play in a Class 3A state title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Hardy became the all-time Fort Wayne scoring leader for basketball while playing for Elmhurst in 2004. He graduated there later that spring. He committed suicide in June in Fort Wayne, the Allen County coroner has ruled. (News-Sentinel file photo)
James Hardy, then a Buffalo Bills wide receiver, left, watches the 2009 Elmhurst High School girls basketball team play in a Class 3A state title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Hardy became the all-time Fort Wayne scoring leader for basketball while playing for Elmhurst in 2004. He graduated there later that spring. He committed suicide in June in Fort Wayne, the Allen County coroner has ruled. (News-Sentinel file photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 19, 2017 01:42 pm

The Allen County coroner's office has ruled that the death of former NFL player James W. Hardy III was a suicide.

The body of Hardy, 31, one of Fort Wayne's most famous athletes and who excelled in basketball and football, was found June 7 in the Maumee River, north of the Anthony Boulevard bridge. Hardy's family had been reported him missing May 30. The determination of his death was reached through interviews and the autopsy, according to a representative of the coroner's office. The investigation into his death is now closed.

Michael Burris, coroner's office chief investigator, responded in an email request for more details and if a note had been found, "we examined his past medical and psychological histories, as well as law enforcement contacts. There was physical evidence that was used to support our findings, but there was not a note located in this case."

Former teammates and others expressed shock at news of the death of the 6-foot, 6-inch Hardy, once a superstar athlete at Elmhurst High School and then at Indiana University, and then an NFL wide receiver. 

In basketball he led Elmhurst to the 2003 Class 3A state runner-up finish. He graduated as Fort Wayne's high school career scoring leader with 1,823 points. He was later passed by Bishop Luers' Deshaun Thomas (3,018) and Northrop's Bryson Scott (2,042). As a senior, Hardy was second in Indiana Mr. Basketball voting to Indianapolis' A.J. Ratliff. 

In football Hardy totaled 34 catches for 710 yards and 10 touchdowns to earn all-state honors as a senior.

He played basketball for one season under then IU Bloomington coach Mike Davis. He appeared in 23 games in 2004-05, with three starts. He averaged 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds. He twice scored as many as seven points - against Purdue and Vanderbilt.

Demands forced him to make a choice, and it turned out to be football. In just three seasons Hardy set school career receiving records for touchdowns (36), yards (2,740) and receptions (191). He gave up his final year of college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills selected him in the second round with the No. 41 pick. 

However, dreams of being a Hall of Famer faded with hamstring injuries that limited Hardy to 16 games with the Bills 2008-10. He totaled 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

Hardy signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, but was cut during preseason camp. He tried the Arena Football League, but injuries kept him on the sidelines.


By 2013, at age 27, he had retired and moved to Los Angeles to try modeling and acting.

"I've tried extremely hard to get my body right the past two years to get back to the NFL," he told The News-Sentinel then. "It just hasn't happened for me. Unfortunately, with the multiple injuries that I had, it looks like it's done for me. I officially retired last month."

He knew the challenges he was facing in his career switch.

"This is difficult because all I've known are football and basketball," he said. "For the first time in my life, I can't use my body to get ahead. So it's different. I have to evaluate myself, see what I can do to be great at."

However, Hardy would face more criminal charges, with his brushes with the law starting when he was 20 years old. He was charged with domestic battery and interfering in the reporting of a crime. In that May 2006 incident, he was accused of striking his girlfriend and his infant son. Those charges were dismissed in February 2007 after Hardy completed a six-month pretrial diversion program. 

In 2008, police were called to a home in southeast Fort Wayne where witnesses told police that Hardy had beaten and pulled a gun on his father, James W. Hardy Jr., but his father did not choose to press charges against his son. Police said that the father told them his son was always angry at him because the elder Hardy had spent much of his son's childhood in prison.

In May 2014, Hardy was arrested and charged with felony resisting arrest after a fight with police officers in Los Angeles that left two officers with minor injuries. A judge ruled that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. TMZ later reported that Hardy had been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Memories of Hardy's athletic accomplishments live on, though a display that once housed them is gone after the 2010 closure of Elmhurst High School. Hardy had donated his personal items back to the school after graduation. He wanted to be able to take his children and someday his grandchildren through the school one day, according to a 2010 News-Sentinel article, but with the board's vote to close the school, Hardy requested that all his items be returned to be displayed privately in his home.

Among Hardy's survivors are a son, James, and a daughter, London.  

 

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