James Hardy knows being a rookie in the NFL is no small task. While rookie receivers often talk about the physical adjustments necessary to make the jump from college to the NFL, Hardy is spending his down time getting area youth focused on the mental adjustments they need to make in the classroom.
Hardy recently established an after-school program with the United Way called 'Homework with Hardy.' Hardy, in conjunction with the SAFE after school program, met with kids at the Frank A. Sedita school in Buffalo. He will be traveling to different local schools for the remainder of the season and then plans on dropping in to see the kids upon his returns to Buffalo in the offseason.
Hardy said his first visit sparked quite the excitement at the school.
"At first the kids were so excited that I had to sit them down and tell them that they had to do their homework before they can get an autograph," Hardy said. "But overall it went great. I did three different classrooms and it's just an opportunity for me go in there and encourage them to make sure they get their school work done, get good grades and get further in life."
Hardy can relate to the pressures and opportunities that abound in every classroom. A self-described class clown in his younger days, Hardy said he knows exactly how to get through to all types of students.
"There were guys there that were sort of the class clowns and I had to get them in check first because the rest of the class feeds off them," he said. "At one point in time I was one of them so I knew exactly how to handle them."
For Hardy, the program really hits home. He said it mirrors the lessons of hard work, dedication and discipline he learned as a senior at Elmhurst High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.
"As soon as school was over I would try to go and get my homework done," Hardy said. "As a matter of fact, my senior year in high school I didn't have last period so I would try to get all my homework done and then later on I'd have practice. So I had just become accustomed to doing my work right after school to get better in the classroom and then focused on getting better on the field."
While Hardy might have come upon the lesson as a senior in high school, he said it is harder to get the message through to kids ages 7-10. He said he makes it clear he is not just at the schools to talk about football.
"I'm there to get my point across and they have to sit down and listen to me in order to accomplish what they're there to accomplish after school," Hardy said. "So I get into the importance of my message after I have all of their attention. So that's when I tell them they need to have to take school seriously and explain how important it is."
Hardy said the students were very receptive and that they and him look forward to their next meeting.
"They were polite and eager to learn," he said. "I am excited to encourage these students to stay active and take all they can from their program. I look forward to my next visit."