He was a paragon of the high school athlete, a three-sport star who was an all-state performer in the classic triumvirate of football, basketball and baseball. Like many other schoolboys in his day, Bruce Hardy of Bingham, Utah, pursued three sports as a matter of course. "It was something I just did without thinking about it," says Hardy, now 46 and an assistant football coach at Florida International University in Miami. "I never even considered giving up a sport. It was something you didn't do in those days."
In 1974 Hardy, then a senior at Bingham High, became the first multisport high school standout to appear on an SI cover, which billed him as the country's BEST SCHOOLBOY ATHLETE. As a quarterback with a cannon arm, Hardy was Utah's Class 3A MVP in his junior and senior seasons. As a versatile forward in basketball, he was a two-time state MVP and carried Bingham to two Utah championships. As a power-hitting catcher, he led the Miners to another state title. Hardy became such a revered figure in his town that when his car was broken into during his senior season, only one item was stolen: his varsity letter jacket.
Could he have had the same success as a three-sport athlete in this era of specialization? "It would have been very difficult," says Hardy, who focused on football at Arizona State, where he was an all-conference tight end, and went on to play with the Miami Dolphins for 12 seasons. "It's a different world now. No one weightlifted back then, and you didn't have all these summer camps, AAU leagues and tournaments."
Though all four of Hardy's sons—Nathan, 23, Adam, 20, Aaron, 18, and Matthew, 16—played Little League baseball, only two, Adam and Aaron, wound up playing a high school sport. "Our dad never pushed us to play sports," says Aaron, who played football at Mountain Pointe High in Phoenix and is a freshman linebacker at Florida International. "For me, one sport was always time-consuming and tiring enough; playing three and playing them as well as he did is amazing."
As a college coach, Hardy, who before moving to Florida International was an Arena Football League coach for six seasons, admits he'd rather have a player focus on football, and during the off-season work in the weight room, rather than pursue another sport or two. "It's amazing how much times have changed—kids are bigger, stronger and faster," he says. "Playing just one sport is what a lot of kids have to do to keep up."