Jim Hardy, a Los Angeles football luminary at USC and with the Rams whose name was synonymous with the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum, and all things football in the Southland, has died. He was 96.
The university announced Monday that Hardy died Friday of natural causes in his home.
Hardy had been the oldest living football player from both USC and the Rams, a former quarterback and defensive back who led the Trojans to Rose Bowl victories in 1944 and 1945. Behind Hardy, who earned Rose Bowl MVP honors in 1945, USC turned both games into runaway shutouts.
Hardy’s attendance at the Rose Bowl would extend far beyond his collegiate career at USC. His streak of 85 consecutive Rose Bowls, including all but the first two of the Trojans’ 34 appearances, was believed to be the longest attendance record in the history of the nation’s most storied bowl game.
After leaving USC, where he also played third base on the baseball team, Hardy joined the Navy in the waning months of World War II. He enlisted shortly after graduation, but wouldn’t stay long at his outpost in the Pacific. By September 1945, the conflict was over.
After the war, Hardy was selected eighth overall by Washington in the 1945 NFL draft. But he opted instead to return to Los Angeles, where the Rams had just relocated from Cleveland.
Over six seasons in the NFL, Hardy would play for the Rams, the Chicago Cardinals and the Detroit Lions. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1950 and won an NFL championship with the Lions in 1952. He also holds perhaps the NFL’s most dubious — and long-lasting — passing record, with eight interceptions thrown in a single game.
Even after his retirement, Hardy remained inextricably linked to football in Southern California — and especially at USC. Hardy attended nearly every home game at the university since he was 8 years old, when he first saw a game at the Coliseum.
His father, who worked the telegraphs for Western Union, brought him to the press box in 1931. From then on, a young Hardy dreamed of playing at USC.
After starring at Fairfax High, Hardy got his wish. His love for USC never faded. Until two years ago, Hardy would make the two-hour drive once every week from his home in La Quinta to USC’s football practice.
From 1973 to 1986, after a successful business career, Hardy served as general manager of the Los Angeles Coliseum. During that time, the Coliseum hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics,
He is survived by his wife, Henrietta, whom he met while they were students at USC, as well as their four children and one grandson.