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." --Albert Chen