On the Lighter Side

It seems like just yesterday that OSU was able to pry Dustin Fox away from Penn State, but suddenly, Fox is already entering his senior season. Gary Housteau talked to Fox's high school coach, Canton GlenOak's Jack Rose, and discovered that Fox is just as special of a person off the field as he is on it. Not only that, but there's another player at GlenOak who may soon follow in Fox's footsteps and make his way to Ohio State...

With the kind of pedigree that Dustin Fox came to Ohio State with, it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that he would eventually have a major impact on the gridiron during his career as a Buckeye, and yet he's on the verge of exceeding even the highest of expectations.

And for those who know him the best, Fox's prodigious success in Columbus hasn't changed him in the least.

"The thing that I've always been impressed with Dustin, first of all, is how humble he is," said Jack Rose, Fox's head coach at GlenOak High School in Canton. "He's just a real humble guy, and he's the type of person that has his priorities straight, and he knows what's important in life. And athletically, as you've seen, he's really a special player."

Yes, the acorn didn't fall far from the Fox family tree. In addition to the obvious lineage on his dad's side, uncle Tim starred at Ohio State in the early to mid 1970's, and mom contributed the Buckeye blood lines from the Kuhn and Stier names. But Randy and Jean Fox deserve at least as much credit, if not more, for the person that Dustin has become off of the field.

"Obviously his mother and father did a great job of raising him. It's the same way with his brother Derek," Rose said. "He just has so much compassion for people that I think he's almost too good to be true, but he's not, it's just him. It's just the way he is in every avenue of his life.

"He's one of those kids that understands that he's in a high-profile program and he's a high-profile guy, and he knows how to conduct himself. But even if he wasn't doing that, if he was just an average student on campus, he would still be the same way without question."

After a stint as the head man at Massillon Washington High School, Rose took over at GlenOak in time for Fox's junior season there. Although Fox played mostly at safety for the Golden Eagles, Rose isn't surprised that he's made the successful transition to cornerback in college.

"Over the two years that I coached him, I told him that he could play any skilled position on the football field in college, no matter what college he would attend," Rose recalled. "I just think he's that good athletically, and he's an intelligent player. He understands the game; he's a student of the game, and he's one of those guys that works hard at it both physically and mentally. So no I'm not surprised at all that he's playing that position."

Most recruiting experts thought Fox was destined for a career at safety in college like his uncle Tim and his brother Derek.

"I know when he first went to college, he preferred to play a safety position; that's what he played for us," Rose said. "We needed him there or we would have played him at corner also. We had him all over the field when he played here; I had him play at about three or four different positions."

And for the most part, Fox has thrived during his career at Ohio State. He played some at safety in his freshman year before being moved exclusively to cornerback, a position that he hasn't relinquished since making a start there in the Outback Bowl of the 2001 season.

"I really thought he would be an impact player," Rose said. "I know he's taken a lot of criticism at times from the media and fans, but he has a way of showing up and making plays when they need to be made. I really expect him, if he stays healthy this year, to have a tremendous year. I think he'll be a potential All-American this year."

But once a safety always a safety? Realistically, there's always that chance that Fox could make a living playing that position at the next level.

"People didn't throw down the middle of the field on us; that ball was always on the sidelines somewhere. Nobody threw the ball down the middle of the field when he was out there," said Rose of the days when Fox patrolled the secondary as a safety for the Golden Eagles. "If he didn't get to it, his hitting ability is tremendous and he was the type of player that intimidated receivers in the middle of the field. And with his athletic ability, he intimidated quarterbacks from throwing the ball down the middle of the field. So he had a great presence on the field at safety."

Obviously his talent at both positions will only make Fox more marketable in the eyes of the NFL people.

"I just talked to Dustin when he was home for break and I told him, ‘the thing you've got going for you Dustin is you're playing one of the toughest positions on the field and you're playing really well, but if it doesn't pan out for you at corner in the pros, they can always move you back to safety.'

"Because of his speed and his jumping ability and the way he hits, he can move to safety without any trouble. So for him, in the long run, I think it's going to help him whether he makes it at corner or not, and that remains to be seen. I think he can. I think he can play at that level at corner, but if they, for some reason, don't think he can, they can always move him to safety. It's a lot easier going from corner to safety than it is from safety to corner."

At the end of the day, the relationship that Rose and his family have with his former player is the most important thing, regardless of what position he plays now or in the future.

"I'll tell you what he does, Dustin always calls me the night before the Michigan game," Rose said. "When he was a freshman he called me and said, ‘Coach, I'm really nervous,' and we talked for about a half hour. He went out that game, in his freshman year at Michigan, and I think he made an interception on the last play of the game."

But the relationship goes even further than those special Friday night phone calls that Rose and his family sit at home and wait for every year in November.

"Dustin talks to all of my sons. I have three sons," Rose said. "I have one boy (Christopher) that has Down syndrome who just loves him, and Dustin has always been good to him. Dustin has been around them ever since I got the job (at GlenOak), and all the kids like him. At the end of this year, he sent all of my kids an autographed action picture of himself and some programs and autographed them so the kids would have them for Christmas. They've got his picture all over their rooms.

"I just love him. I tell my boys all the time that if you're going to be like anybody, be like Dustin Fox. Whenever he's home, he always stops by school and says hello to all of his teachers. He always comes back. We've got a Dustin Fox fan club going in my home; they think the world of him. And I'm the president of the club."

Rose doesn't hesitate to make his players at GlenOak aware of the example Fox can be to each and every one of them.

"We've got kids that always want to play at Ohio State obviously and Dustin has kind of set a benchmark as to the type of player you need to be to get down there and the type of person you need to be," the coach said. "And I just tell them if that's your goal, if you're like Dustin, not just athletically but as a person, you've got a great chance because they want players like that. Ohio State wants quality people."

Brian Hartline is the next big name coming through the GlenOak program.

"He's a Dustin Fox clone," Rose said. "He's really athletic. He's really fast."

At the Ward Invitational in East Palestine, Ohio on April 3, Hartline won three individual events and anchored the winning 4X400 relay team. He ran 14.4 in the 110 high hurdles on his first day out. His split in the 4X400 relay was 48 seconds flat. And he high jumped 6'5" on his first attempt."

Hartline started his junior year at quarterback but was moved around once his brother Mike, assumed the duties of the of quarterback.

"He's going to be a really good quarterback; he's going to be something special I think," said Rose of the then sophomore signal caller who threw for 1,500 yards in just seven games. "When he came in, we moved Brian over to the slot back position where we could motion him around and hand the ball off to him and throw the ball to him. And when we did that we really started to put things together offensively."

In addition to playing wide receiver, quarterback and safety last year, Brian Hartline ran back punts and kickoff for the Golden Eagles.

"We try to get the ball to him as much as we can," the coach said, "or we try to let him get to the ball as much as he can."

As far as the Hartline brothers as a tandem goes, Rose thinks they can be a very lethal combination next season.

"I think they can be really good together," he said. "Mike can make all of the throws that you want a quarterback to make and he's getting bigger and stronger. His body has changed so much just since football ended. And so has Brian's body. And Brian has actually gotten faster. According to the track coaches, he's much faster now this year. So I think those two guys can really be a tremendous combination."

Speed runs, no pun intended, in the Hartline family.

"The Hartline name was a big name at Canton Lincoln High School, which is no longer in existence," Rose said. "They used to have a Hartline family there that were great track athletes, and that's part of Brian's family. So there's been a lineage of speed in his family kind of like the Fox's; there's always been speed in the Fox family."

Like Fox, Brian Hartline, who will likely entertain scholarship offers for his track prowess, would love to someday play college football in Ohio Stadium.

"If he was a decathlete, which he probably could be, he could be almost world class. He's really gifted," Rose said. "But football is his first love and he wants to play at Ohio State. I don't think there's any question that if Ohio State would offer him that he would take it. He would jump on it."

So just how does Hartline compare to Fox at this stage in his career?

"They've done similar things as juniors, but the difference is Dustin had a better sophomore year than Brian did," Rose said. "Dustin had more experience going into his junior year than Brian, but by the end of the year, probably the last four games, Brian has done everything that Dustin did in a similar time frame as juniors."

All the signs are there.

"He's done similar things," Rose said. "And he's bigger."

And like Fox, Hartline is a very humble guy as well.

"I don't know if it's humility or he just doesn't realize how good he is," Rose said. "I think Dustin always had a feeling inside that he was good, but I don't know if Brian realizes how good he is. I think he's kind of naive in that respect because he didn't have an older brother like Derek. Dustin had an advantage where he had an older brother that played in the Big Ten, and he's been around his uncles that played at Ohio State. Dustin had more of road map for what to do and what to expect."

But Brian now has Dustin.

"Exactly, and Dustin has taken Brian under his wing and he talks to him all the time. Dustin has been real good about that," Rose said. "And Brian really hangs on every word that Dustin tells him."

The main word now is patience if Hartline indeed wants to be a Buckeye.

"I'd love to see that. I don't think Coach (Jim) Tressel would go wrong on him but there's a lot of good players out there," Rose said. "Dustin's told him to be patient. He's going down to that Nike camp on the 17th, and I think he'll open some eyes up down there."

Excuse the track analogy, but I'm with Coach Rose on this one. I would love to see the Golden Eagle baton passed from Fox to Hartline next February. We'll just have to be patient.

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