Lakes' star Hardy fills up on more than just football
They are one year apart in age, but D'Lo Hardy and his older sister Dominique have always been in the same grade in school.
It was hard to separate the two.
A lot of people have mistakenly assumed that D'Lo and Dominique are twins, because they are around each other so much.
"We've been together all our lives," D'Lo Hardy said. "We've gone to school together, we were always getting into trouble together when we were younger, doing dumb things that we weren't supposed to do. We've always been really close."
So it was no surprise that Dominique wanted to be one of the managers of the Lakes football team. Being around the team meant that she could hang out with her "little" brother D'Lo, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound jack-of-all-trades, offensive and defensive star for the Eagles for the last three years.
"It's great having her around," Hardy said of his sister. "And whenever I need something from my Mom during games, it's great because Dominique can just run over (to the stands) and get it."
So what could Hardy possibly need from his Mom Antoinette during games?
Well, fruit snacks for starters. Or maybe money for the concession stand, so that Dominique can run over and get a hot dog or two.
A swig of Gatorade here or there just isn't cutting it for Hardy during games. He needs more in his stomach. Much more.
"I get kind of hungry during games," Hardy said with a laugh, admitting that snacking on concession food while actually playing in a game might not be the norm for most athletes. "I'll eat during halftime, sometimes (on the sideline). Whenever I can."
The unusual snacking habits of Hardy aside, it's not hard to understand why he would be so hungry.
He is in a near constant state of motion during Lakes football games.
"I don't get much of a break," Hardy said. "Out of maybe 210 snaps a game, I'm probably on the field for about 160 of them. I need those hot dogs."
Hardy plays safety on defense for the Eagles. Full-time. On offense, he's played wide receiver full-time in the past, but he has just recently been moved to full-time running back. He's even been in on some special teams situations, and last week successfully helped execute a fake punt by throwing for a first down.
"D'Lo was joking with me that maybe he should play quarterback next," Lakes coach Jordan Eder said with a laugh. "Actually, I'm sure he could. He's that good of an athlete. He could make a difference anywhere. He is able to do so many things for us."
But it seems like Hardy, the strongest player on his team and the first in the program this summer to reach the 1,000-pound club in the weight room, has found something special at running back.
Last week, in an entertaining display of offense that yielded a 55-44 Northern Lake County Conference win for Lakes over Grayslake North, Hardy went off from the running back spot.
In just his second full game at that position, Hardy rolled up 268 rushing yards and a school-record 5 touchdowns on 30 carries. All while also playing safety on defense.
"That was a fun game," Hardy said. "I think it's hard to tackle me when I'm a running back. I'm kind of shifty and I'm strong and it's hard to bring me down."
Hardy was an elusive receiver, too, scoring 8 touchdowns as a sophomore on varsity, and 9 touchdowns last year.
Even though he grew up playing running back, Hardy was slotted as a wide receiver when he got to high school because older stars like Cameron Ruiz and Ethan Greenfield were ahead of him on the running back depth chart. And yet, the Eagles still wanted to find a way to get Hardy on the field, so wide receiver it was.
This year, they wanted to up the ante. It wasn't enough just to have Hardy on the field.
"We wanted to find a way to get the ball in D'Lo's hands a lot more this season," Eder said. "He's always one of the best athletes on the field, for our team or for the other team. We wanted to guarantee he's getting plenty of chances with the ball, so rather than wide receiver, let's put him at running back.
"I mean, D'Lo could be all-conference in any spot on the field. He's just that good. But he is really, really good at running back."
College coaches like Hardy's versatility, too, but would probably play him at wide receiver or on defense. Hardy is getting looks from most Big Ten teams, most MAC teams and a smattering of others.
He has no offers yet, which he says is frustrating. But he's optimistic about the future and he tries to live every day with a smile, and gratitude for what he does have.
He decided to live with that mindset years ago when he lost his other sister, Meadow. She died when D'Lo and Dominique were in fifth grade. Meadow had a heart disorder. She was just 4 years old.
"That was a really hard time in my life, but it taught me to never take life for granted and to always see the bright side of things," Hardy said. "I'm confident things will work out with college. I used to play football all the time at recess at Martin (Elementary School). I dreamed of being in the NFL someday. It would be a dream (to play in college)."
Better stock up on the fruit snacks.
Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw