How Brandon Hardy became the most recognizable fan in Notre Dame’s student section

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Brandon Hardy likes gold, but you probably already knew that.

It’s not hard to spot Hardy at a Notre Dame football or basketball game. In a sea of students, the camera usually finds him.

The Irish players find him too. It’s become a tradition of sorts for wide receiver Chase Claypool and others to celebrate with the student section after games. Hardy’s typically right in the mix with his flashy outfits.

It all started when Hardy, a Decatur, Ga. product, wanted to show some school spirit as a freshman in 2016. He wore a gold suit, a gold hat, a gold crown, a gold bow tie, a gold boa and gold framed glasses to Notre Dame’s 30-27 home victory over Miami. It was Halloween weekend, and Hardy took pictures from the crowd including shots with Irish wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and former NBA star David Robinson.

From that point on, Hardy knew gold was going to be his thing.

"I just thought it would be a good way to show school spirit,” Hardy said. “No end goal or anything. I thought it was a nice jacket. Gold is my favorite color."

Yesterday was great! I will wear all gold at all games from now on #GoIrish ☘️☘️@THunterJr@NDFootball@NotreDame#halloweenpic.twitter.com/FdUBw47T7B

— Brandon Hardy (@bhardy_goldguy) October 31, 2016

Hardy, a junior, continued his gold-wearing ways into the basketball season. The Irish football team struggled in 2016, but the men’s basketball team made a run into the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

But it wasn’t until the 2017 football season that Hardy felt like he had gained a bit of campus fame. After the road win at Michigan State in September, Claypool, who Hardy befriended as a classmate, found him in the crowd to celebrate.

“He came over and that set the precedent for him coming over pretty much after every game we won,” Hardy said.

The two met again after the 49-14 win over USC in October, but the celebration came with a little pain for Hardy. Defensive end Daelin Hayes jumped into the crowd. Then came cornerback Julian Love. Finally, Claypool leaped into the crowd and bopped Hardy in the face.

“He accidentally hit me in the face, and that was on national television,” Hardy said. “That was kind of when people started to really notice."

When you wake up and remember that Saturday's @NDFootball win vs. USC wasn't a dream.#GoIrishpic.twitter.com/3g7aWwKUyd

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) October 22, 2017

Hardy went to more basketball games, made the trip to Orlando, Fla., for the Citrus Bowl and was in Columbus, Ohio, when the women’s basketball team won the national championship in April.

Hardy’s presence has continued this football season. He attended every game — home and away — except for the Virginia Tech game. He’ll be at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 29 when the No. 3 Irish (12-0) take on No. 2 Clemson (13-0) in the College Football Playoff semifinal. There’s been plenty to celebrate.

Traveling to San Diego, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles isn’t cheap. But Hardy’s had some help this season from Under Armour. He was named an Under Armour brand ambassador for Notre Dame this semester and said the company has covered some of his travel costs.

“My job is basically to promote Under Armour on campus,” Hardy said. “In the fall, that's when you have football and everything kind of revolves around football, which is why they chose just to do the fall and not the spring. It's pretty cool. I get a lot of free stuff. A lot of different perks.”

On Hardy’s Instagram account (@bhardy__), he shares photos and videos of him wearing new Under Armour products. He promoted the “Irish Wear Green” shirts Under Armour released before the season opener against Michigan. He even had an Under Armour logo shaved into his haircut at one point during the season. That's recently been replaced with a 12-0 on his head.

Complete✅ #goirish#notredamefootball#notredamepic.twitter.com/7ES8IusiBo

— Brandon Hardy (@bhardy_goldguy) November 29, 2018

Hardy understands the value of marketing. If not for a Notre Dame puzzle that was mailed to him in seventh grade, he might not have ended up as a student there. He made a campus visit as a senior from Decatur's Columbia High School.

“I always wanted to come here since then. If any other school had sent me that puzzle, I would have probably fallen in love with that school,” Hardy said. “Notre Dame was just the first one that I had any contact with. Everything fell in place.”

Hardy, majoring in accounting, added to his game day wardrobe this season beyond the Under Armour gifts. He’s worn both green and gold sparkling jackets to various games. He no longer needs to wear the same outfit to be spotted. He’s the most recognizable face in Notre Dame’s student section.

"I have a lot of different gold,” Hardy said. “I have green and gold. I have all gold. I have gold jackets, gold bomber jackets, gold sweatshirts. It just depends on how I feel that day."

Hardy said he gets identified outside of campus when he’s not wearing Notre Dame gear. Sometimes Irish fans will ask for pictures. Other times he can tell people are looking at him trying to figure out why they recognize him.

He treats it as a responsibility to represent Notre Dame now. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

"Once you start something, it's hard to get out of it,” Hardy said. “I enjoy it. I love what I do. I didn't realize what I was doing was going to turn into this at all.”

Love falls short

Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love fell one spot short of becoming Notre Dame football’s 30th unanimous All-American on Wednesday.

To qualify players must earn first-team All-America honors from five designated organizations. The fifth and final of those, the American Football Coaches Association team, was released Wednesday. Love was a second-teamer.

Combined with his first-team selections from the Walter Camp Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America, the Associated Press and The Sporting News, the 5-foot-11, 193-pound junior still garners consensus All-America honors.

He’s the 86th individual and 102nd selection (because of repeats) from Notre Dame to do so — most of any school on both counts.

He’s also the first Irish cornerback since unanimous selection Shane Walton and AP third-team selection Vontez Duff, both in 2002, to earn All-America mention of any kind.

In the era of two-platoon football (1964-present), he’s the seventh ND cornerback to earn consensus or unanimous All-America honors.

Magic, indeed.

NBC#GoIrish#BeatVandypic.twitter.com/OLIWnqBrP9

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) September 15, 2018

To! The! Fourth!

No. 8 @NDFootball leads Stanford, 24-17!#GoIrish#BeatCardinalpic.twitter.com/m6DXU4VILy

— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) September 30, 2018

How I’m feeling right now @ndwbbpic.twitter.com/3fNiDwfl4n

— Brandon Hardy (@bhardy_goldguy) April 2, 2018

Brandon Hardy, a junior Notre Dame student, celebrates with Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool following the 31-21 Irish win at Northwestern.
Notre DameÕs Khalid Kareem, left, and Chase Claypool, right, jump into the student section to celebrate following Notre Dame's 24-17 win over Michigan. Junior student Brandon Hardy celebrates between them.