April 29, 1974
While wading through the sea of familiar faces at the 10th-year reunion for Bingham High's class of '74, Bruce Hardy suddenly realized why these exercises in mandated nostalgia are usually so depressing. "People don't like reunions because you see yourself in the other people," says Hardy, who grew up in Utah's Salt Lake Valley. "Your mind still likes to tell you that you're 17, but your body is showing everyone that you are much older."
The last thing Hardy, who resides in St. George, Utah, with his wife, Joanie, and their four children, needs to worry about is his public image in his home state. Hardy, who wants to coach in the NFL, is paying his dues as offensive coordinator for the Arena Football League's Arizona Rattlers, but many people in Salt Lake Valley still idolize him as the high school phenom who racked up all-state honors in three sports. He was a power-hitting catcher one major league scout called "the best high school athlete I've seen in 20 years" and Class AAA MVP in basketball and football in both his junior and senior years. At 17 the 6'4", 205-pound Hardy was on the cover of SI, which anointed him "the best all-around schoolboy athlete in the U.S." The local residents repaid Hardy's heroics with a devotion that bordered on lunacy. "Someone once broke into my car and stole my letter jacket," says Hardy, 42. "They didn't bother with my tape deck or my date's purse." This fanaticism drove him to leave Utah to play football at Arizona State. "I felt like I was carrying the town's hopes on my shoulders," Hardy says. "People acted like I was a traitor, but I had to get away." He switched from quarterback to tight end as a sophomore, and after catching 19 passes for 269 yards as a senior in 1977, he was picked in the ninth round of the NFL draft by Miami. In the ensuing 12 seasons with the Dolphins he caught 256 passes for 2,455 yards and started in two Super Bowls.
Hardy has been coaching Arena Football since 1994. "What I try to pass on to my players is what I learned as a player: how to use your head. I didn't have as much talent as other NFL players, but what I lacked in speed, I made up for in technique. That kept me playing as long as I did." He hopes his football smarts will soon return him to the NFL as an assistant. "I always figured I could be successful at coaching," says Hardy, "and I do have Don Shula as a reference on my r�sum�."