Pundits — yes, even some college coaches — said he was too small to play big-time college football. They were wrong … by more than 5,000 yards.
Mike Hart began his football career with the Clay Panthers organization. He played scholastically at Onondaga Central High School, - a little guy at a small school running for big yardage. Hart led Bill Spicer’s Onondaga teams to three state titles and a 46-1 record, setting four national career marks (touchdowns, 204; consecutive and total 100-yard rushing games, 47 each; points, 1,246). A three-time All-State and Player of the Year, he set seven state records.
His 11,045 rushing yards (935 carries, 11.8 per carry) set the state standard and was No. 2 nationally. Mike also played high school basketball and graduated top 10 in his class, then chose to play collegiately at University of Michigan.
If he was too small for big-time ball, what about setting a Wolverine freshman rushing record (1,455 yards) and being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year? How about his 1,562 yards on the ground as a junior, when he was fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting? And as captain his senior year, didn’t he come up big enough (1,361 rushing yards)? Hart’s college career saw him set four Michigan records and earn All-Big Ten honors three times. He was a sure-handed ball-carrier, losing only three fumbles in over 1,000 touches, while rushing for a Michigan-record 5,040 yards.
The 2008 Michigan grad was Indianapolis’ sixth-round NFL Draft pick. He played three seasons for the Colts, had a total of 71 carries (3.7 average, 2 TDs; 12 receptions) in 21 games during an injury-plagued pro career. And Hart did play in Super Bowl XLIV (2 carries, 4 yards).
Mike is a founding member of CNY Football Academy, a one-day free camp for more than 300 Syracuse-area kids. He’s president of the Mike Hart Foundation - its mission: “To inspire and positively impact the lives of youth through enriching activities that promote sport, health, education, and sportsmanship.”
Hart, 28, was running backs coach at Eastern Michigan for two seasons, before leaving in February to take the same position at Western Michigan.
Now, we welcome Mike Hart into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2014.