"I've got some bad news!"
I remember Steve Helwagen telling me that as we were sitting in the press box at Nippert Stadium during a weather delay at the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown this past weekend (Aug. 28).
"Brian Hartline broke his leg," Helwagen said.
"What a bummer," I immediately thought.
Just like that, a season full of so much promise for Hartline came to premature end in just an instant. Hartline committed to Ohio State in June and was expecting to team up with his brother Mike to form a prolific and unstoppable passing combination for GlenOak this year.
After a couple of phone messages back and forth, I finally spoke with Brian on the telephone on Wednesday night. He had come home from the hospital on Monday.
Surprisingly -- no, it wasn't very surprising come to think of it -- his spirits were very high. After knowing him for only a short time, it's easy to see that Brian's glass is always half full and not half empty.
"I'm just hanging out at my house and my leg is completely fine," he immediately reassured me. "The doctors want to say I'm ahead of schedule and everything is doing good. It was a clean break and my leg went completely back together."
He proceeded to give me somewhat of an anatomy lesson, and I really enjoyed hearing him talk in such an upbeat fashion.
"It's kind of like breaking your arm. That's what I've been telling everybody," Hartline said. "There's two bones in your arm, and it's like breaking your arm. It's going to take a little bit longer for it to heal, but it's just a matter of time. I have a rod in my leg right now with a couple of screws but those will come out and everything will heal. I'm just glad that it wasn't a ligament thing or a knee thing or an ankle thing. It's just a matter of time and everything will be fine."
It was a clean break, and that's a good thing, according to Hartline.
"It broke completely right in the middle of my leg," he said. "Both bones were completely broken, but I guess when bones break, they come back even stronger than before because of all the calcium and calcification. But it will be fine and everything will be stronger."
He claims to remember everything. From the initial screams to the ensuing pain.
"I remember hitting the ground and knowing that I wanted to get up but then I couldn't, and laying my leg back down after looking at it, and getting put in the ambulance and feeling every single bump on the ride to the hospital, and I remember waiting for that pain medication that didn't come until about two hours later after the x-rays. So it was a long process," Hartline said. "So as of right now I'm good, but back then I wasn't doing too hot."
I asked him to relive the actual play.
"It was a punt return and I didn't think that I was going to field it at first because it was kind of short," he said. "My running back was my lead blocker, and he was going to block the guy screaming down the field. He hit him and it was a great block. He blocked him and took him to the ground and as he was doing that I was planting to go outside and my left leg was inside, and they both ended up landing on my leg and took me down to the ground. It wasn't a good sight. My leg kind of collapsed underneath them both.
"I tried to get up from there. I grabbed my leg at about my thigh area and held it up just to move it and try to get up and it just dangled there. I knew at that point it wasn't good, and I just laid my leg back down and I waited for everyone to come and take care of me."
Hartline admitted to being in denial at first but soon realized he was the one who could most afford to be injured in such a season-ending manner.
"If it had to be anyone I'm glad it was me," he said. "There's a lot of players out there that still need to prove things and they need to have a big senior season. Me, individually, I thought I did for my personal well being but if it had to happen to anyone this year on my team, I'm glad that it happened to me."
Dustin Fox was on the GlenOak sideline and he was one of the first of the friendly faces Hartline remembered seeing.
"When it happened, all of these people and trainers came flying to me when I was screaming, and then Dustin helped me calm down big time. He really helped me out a lot," Hartline said. "Eventually I calmed down and bit my lip and just laid there and took it. There's not much you could do. Screaming doesn't get you anywhere."
Ironically, Dustin's uncle Tim Fox missed his senior season in high school under circumstances similar to Hartline's. Jim Tressel made Brian aware of that when the two spoke.
"I talked to (Tressel) and he reassured me that ‘we made our mind up on you a long time ago. Even if you wouldn't have verballed with us, we still would have been after you. We made up our mind on you and that's how we kind of work around here,' " Hartline said. "I talked to (Tressel) for about five or 10 minutes, and then I talked to Coach (Darrell) Hazell and I talked to Coach (Jim) Bollman. It was good that I got to talk the them."
The healing process began almost immediately and the prognosis is extremely positive.
"We're hoping to get the rod out in early spring or late winter. In February kind of," Hartline said. "I can't compete in contact sports with a rod in my leg; I think it's against the rules. I can get it out before track or after track but I'm 100 percent sure I'm doing it before track so I'm not taking it out in late June right before I go to OSU.
"So I'm getting my hard cast on Tuesday and then it's all about healing."
So track is still in his mind?
"Track is there," he said. "It's more like I'm doing everything I need to do, and if I can fit track in then it will be fit in."
It hasn't really set it for Hartline, but it has.
"I'm just trying to keep a level head. I don't know why things happen or what it is I can learn from this," he said. "Maybe I can see football from a different perspective for once; see it from the sidelines and see if there's some things I can learn there. Going through this season, I'll probably learn a number of things that I never would have learned anywhere else."
It's still all about the Golden Eagles and winning a Federal League title for Hartline.
"If the team does great, then I'm going to be happy," he said. "I wanted to do things for Coach (Jack) Rose this year. Not necessarily for me but for him this year. Being the league champs and going two or three or four rounds into the playoffs would satisfy me plenty. That's our main goals right now and they're legitimate, so that's what we're still going for."
Hartline definitely wants to be a part of it all.
"I think I'm still going to be a part of it, I think that I'm just going to play a different role," he said. "And other people now are just going to have to step up and be more impressive to everybody else this year. It's going to teach me and the rest of the team a lesson this year and I think it will be for the good."
Mike Hartline took his big brother's injury pretty hard.
"It effected him a lot. Everyone in the stadium heard him, he said a few choice words. So everyone knows how he's taking it," Brian said. "This Saturday he was going to go to the Michigan game because he got tickets, but he decided to change his mind and go to the Ohio State game with me. So you never know, this injury could have made a bigger impact than people really think.
"There's still that want that he wants to play a full season with me. We didn't get to play that season together this year and that's another reason why he needs to go to Ohio State next year."
But Hartline wanted to thank everyone for their expressing their sincere concern. He's had numerous phone calls and get-well cards and letters coming in already.
"I want to thank all of the high school football fans and the community, and I want to thank all the Buckeye fans for all the support that I've been getting," he said. "I've gotten more support than I ever thought I would get and it helps more than people think it does. It kind of gives me a backbone. And trust me, I take the time to read each (card or letter). I really appreciate all of the support that I've already gotten. And don't be afraid to show more. I really appreciate it."
And we really appreciate you! Get well soon, Brian.