FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As the community mourns the loss of Fort Wayne sports star and former NFL player James Hardy, his high school basketball coach is reminiscing on the standout athlete’s glory days. Hardy’s body was pulled from the Maumee River Wednesday afternoon. According to police, his family reported him missing May 30.
Former Elmhurst High School basketball coach Keith Edmonds said Hardy had called him on May 29, asking Edmonds to visit him. Edmonds was in Cincinnati for a basketball tournament, but promised to give him a call when he was back in Fort Wayne.
When he returned, Hardy’s phone number was no longer working, and he never got a hold of him.
“I think back, and I should have just drove to where he was staying as opposed to trying to call and maybe I would have been able to connect with him a little better,” Edmonds said. “So that’s something that’s always going to be on my heart that maybe I could have done a little bit more than I did in trying to reach out to him.”
Edmonds coached the prolific Hardy from 2000-2004. The scorer was runner-up for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball. He led Elmurst to the 2003 IHSAA Class 3A State Championship.
“James was a special young man,” Edmonds said. “He and I, we had beyond a player-coach relationship. James became like a son to my wife and I. He was frequently in our home. He immediately became someone we just enjoyed being around. He was a funny young man. He was a very intelligent young man. We recognized right away he was going to be a special talent.”
In recent years, Hardy is said to have been in L.A. pursuing modeling and music. Edmonds said Hardy eventually came back to Fort Wayne to reflect and center himself. Hardy went on to be a wide receiver at Indiana University before being drafted to the Buffalo Bills in 2008. Hardy also played for the Ravens, but injuries cut his career short. He was released in 2011.
“I think he just came back here because this was his support system, and I think you can always come back home,” he explained. “I think he just felt that before he could make his next move, he needed people he could spend time with and counsel him a little bit and talk to him about what his next moves would be and just make sure he’s moving out in the right direction,” said Edmonds.
Edmonds said he had the utmost confidence in whatever Hardy planned to do next.
“The James that I knew, whatever he was going to get himself involved in, he was going to give it his very best,” Edmonds said. “He had this drive, this inner passion for whatever it was he was attempting to do that he had to be the very best. That’s my lasting memory of him. The competitive, driven, passionate, ‘I’m not going to take no for an answer,’ James Hardy. That’s what he always was.”