MOSCOW, Idaho – The first prognosis came via cell phone. Daniel Hardy was in his bedroom, unable to shake the pain in his kidney, when a doctor told him to brace for bad news.
The results from a CAT scan were back and football looked to be out of the equation, at least for a while.
“My heart just sunk right there,” Hardy said.
This was 31/2 weeks ago, just after the Idaho football team had returned from a win at Northern Illinois. Everything looked promising for the Vandals, but Hardy wondered if his junior season was over.
After making a catch over a NIU defender, Hardy had landed with the point of the ball going between his ribs and jabbing his kidney. He made it through the game but the pain was immense.
That blood was found in his urine only made the injury more unsettling.
“I think anytime you have the type of injury he had and you’re waiting to find out the severity, it’s certainly going to make you worry,” Idaho offensive coordinator Steve Axman said.
The situation began to turn in Hardy’s favor when he saw an urologist in Pullman. More tests were done and the original doctor’s forecast was reversed. Hardy was forced to miss just one game with a lacerated kidney.
Last week he returned at full strength against Hawaii, making three catches for 62 yards and showing why he was the Vandals’ leading receiver before getting hurt.
“To go from thinking I was going to be out all the season to miss only really a week was just a blessing from God,” Hardy said.
When healthy, the former walk-on from Anchorage, Alaska, has been a vital component to the Vandals’ multifaceted offense.
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, he has the size to take on linebackers over the middle. But he also has the speed to be a downfield threat and one of Nathan Enderle’s most trusted targets.
Hardy’s ability seems especially to shine through on third downs. There’s something about the pressure of having to convert, he said, that evokes the same feelings he used to have in the waning moments of a down-to-the-wire basketball game.
“When the game is on the line and you need a bucket, I always wanted the ball in my hands,” he said. “But it kind of translates to the football field. So on third down, that’s when you have to step up the most.”
Back in Anchorage, hoops and soccer came naturally to Hardy. Yet he didn’t pick up football until his junior year of high school.
Hardy made it to Moscow after sending a recruiting tape to Dennis Erickson’s staff in 2006. The previous staff invited him to walk on and he eventually put on 40 pounds.
Finally able to see the field more this season, Hardy has become – in the words of Axman – an intrinsic part of the Vandals’ passing attack. He’ll be counted on to produce when Idaho (6-1, 3-0 WAC) goes to Reno to play Nevada (3-3, 2-0) on Saturday.
“I’ve always felt if I could have, in our tight ends, (someone) that can attack vertically on the football field, it can give defenses an awful lot of problems,” Axman said. “He’s certainly been able to fill that threat for us.”
Around the WAC
After a wild non-conference season, the WAC is starting to take shape like most predicted – with the exception of Idaho, of course. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada have won by an average of 17 points in starting 5-1 in league play. … Even though BSU quarterback Kellen Moore leads the nation in passing efficiency, the front-runner for WAC Offensive Player of the Year is probably Fresno tailback Ryan Mathews. He’s the national leader with 974 rushing yards.