Hardy attended West Craven High School in Vanceboro, North Carolina. As a senior, he played quarterback after previously being a wide receiver. That season, he passed for 2,500 yards and had 35 passing touchdowns. Hardy also picked two additional letters as a shooting and point guard on the basketball floor and another in track as a high jumper (best of 6-4 or 1.93m).
After earning a scholarship in spring 2011, he started eight of 10 games in his redshirt freshman season in 2011, recording a school freshman record 64 receptions for 658 yards and six touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2012 Hardy was an All-Conference USA first-team selection after recording 88 receptions for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a junior in 2013, Hardy was again first-team All-Conference USA after setting school records for receptions (114) and receiving yards (1,284) in a season. During the first game of his senior season in 2014, he set East Carolina's record for career receptions, passing Dwayne Harris' 268. On November 22, 2014, against Tulane, Hardy became the NCAA's all-time leading receptions leader, passing Ryan Broyles' 349. On December 8, 2014, Hardy was named the winner of that season's Burlsworth Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding player who began his college career as a walk-on. For the season Hardy had 121 receptions for 1,494 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Hardy finished his college career with 387 receptions for 4,541 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Hardy was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round (107th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Hardy played in 9 games, catching 21 passes for 194 yards. In week 2 of the 2016 season, against the Oakland Raiders, Hardy scored his first career touchdown when he caught a deflected pass in the end zone.