Hardy wears his heart on his arm
10:00 am, April 23, 2012
A dead-on replica of the Notre Dame leprechaun occupies the bottom of Eilar Hardy’s right forearm. Above that is a rendition of the Touchdown Jesus mural. Etched nearby is an intricate tattoo of the Golden Dome.
To casual observers, the artwork ND’s safety had done after arriving in South Bend last summer could be considered a vertical and scaled-down version of a Notre Dame billboard.
To Hardy, it’s a daily reminder of where he’s at.
“When I first came up I wanted to be focused, I wanted to be committed to this team, so that’s why I decided to get it on my arm,” the 5-foot-11, 185-pound sophomore-to-be said.
“I look at it every day, really. Just walking around campus, I look at my arm and I’m like, I’m really at the Notre Dame. It’s just a privilege to be a part of this.”
As happy as Hardy is to be here, however, there’s more that he wants to be a part of — the playing rotation, something he appeared headed for last fall.
During the first two days of fall camp, the Pickerington (Ohio) Central graduate worked with the starting kickoff units. Ten minutes into the first practice in which the Irish wore pads, however, Hardy’s season instantly ended.
The team was going through what is called a pop-up drill that is used to perfect tackling.
“I was the runner. Gary Gray gave me a little, simple shot. It wasn’t anything hard,” said Hardy. “My foot just got caught in the turf and my knee hyperextended and it just blew out.
“It just didn’t feel right.”
With good reason. In addition to suffering a torn LCL, Hardy’s hamstring came off the bone.
“It was tough. I never even thought about being injured my freshman year of college,” said Hardy. “They had real big expectations of me and so I was really anxious to get out there and be a part of the team. It was just tough, being on the sidelines and watching teams and really having no real power to do anything to help the team win, to help us get through it.”
Practice time was replaced with rehab time. Grueling rehab time. After the surgery, the muscles in his left leg became smaller.
“Just trying to rebuild the muscles, it took time,” Hardy said. “That was the toughest part of the whole process.”
Hardy a few months ago was cleared to go 100 percent, and actually helped on the look team in preparations for the Champs Sports Bowl.
“That really helped me out a lot,” he said, “to get my mind going and get back focused.”
Now the focus becomes climbing the depth chart at Notre Dame’s field (free) safety spot, the safety position that covers slot backs and tight ends.
Senior Zeke Motta is slotted as the starter with junior Austin Collinsworth looking like the backup. Hardy and fifth-year senior Dan McCarthy are rotating reps behind those two.
“It was a lot of catchup because I didn’t have the reps last year, the play ability to know actually what the game speed was,” Hardy said. “Now being back, basically a step behind, I’m playing catchup.”
There has been a thought that Hardy could also help at cornerback, where graduations and recruiting losses have added up to a thin depth chart.
“They haven’t said anything to me about playing corner, so I’m sticking with safety and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team get better.”