Nov. 1, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It has been a long road for defensive end Mike Hardy, but the fourth-year junior has come into his own as of late and will start his second consecutive game Saturday when the Hawkeyes face 24th-ranked Wisconsin at 11 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium.
Hardy was a rotation guy through the first seven games, but needed to step into a more prominent role when Dominic Alvis went down with an injury. The native of Appleton, Wis., saw significant minutes two weeks ago at Ohio State, amassing a career-high nine tackles. Last week, he got his first career start in Iowa’s 17-10 overtime victory over Northwestern.
Whether it’s starting or coming in off the bench, Hardy says his preparation is the same.
“Even when I wasn’t starting, you still have to watch just as much film and study the game just as much,” said the 6-foot-5, 275-pound lineman. “It’s not like a lot of other positions where the starters play the entire game; we have a rotation. I still had to be ready and prepare like I was a starter. Now a starter, I’ll see a few more snaps.”
Hardy said it’s been a long road, but the fruits of his labor are starting to pay off.
“Coming into this season the defensive line knew we were going to have to step up,” said Hardy. “I didn’t get the starting spot right away, but I’ve been working as hard as everybody else.”
The last two years, Hardy has seen action in 12 games, seeing the most time last season collecting six tackles in 10 contests. As an upperclassman this year, Hardy has played in all eight games.
In his first career start, Hardy had three tackles, including two for loss and a sack. Junior defensive lineman Carl Davis says Hardy personifies Iowa’s “next man in” motto.
“Mike knew he had a job to do against a tough opponent and quarterback,” said Davis. “He did his job well and contained the quarterback. I’m happy for him that he stepped up and made some plays for us.”
Hardy credits former teammate Karl Klug (and current current Tennessee Titan) in being a strong leader and showing him the ropes when he was a freshman.
“Karl taught me that you need to be focused on your technique and work ethic,” said Hardy. “He was one of the best at knocking down hands, being able to squeeze their gaps and make plays in the backfield. Being able to be here one year with him and Adrian Clayborn, and seeing how they approached things and executed has been a big help.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said to have success the team needs guys like Hardy to step up.
“Mike has done a really nice job,” Ferentz said. “I thought he played his best game on Saturday.”
Being a Wisconsin native and former Badger fan, Hardy said he will be preparing the same as he would against any other Big Ten team.
“I’m not going to look at this game any differently than I would any other game,” he said. “It would be nice to win, so when I go home I can say we beat them, but I can’t let that distract me.
“Wisconsin is big up front. We’ve faced some physical teams up front already so we’ll be ready for them.”