Brian Hartline of Canton GlenOak High School is busy taking baby steps these days.
Instead of routinely racing into the end zone after being on the receiving end of a pass thrown from his younger brother Mike, Brian Hartline is routinely rehabbing his leg that he broke in the first week of his senior season.
"Everything is going really good," said Hartline, referring to the rehabilitation process that he's currently undergoing. "I'm finished with my pool therapy, which is good. I'm walking in the pool now without any weight on it. At first, I wasn't walking properly because I was babying it, and I slowly pushed it and I got myself rolling off the ball of my foot again. Actually, right now I'm making laps around my house without any boot or shoe on or anything. So things are going really good."
Hartline, who verbally committed to Ohio State this summer, recently ditched his crutches and he's been walking around in a boot that's padded and cushioned to absorb his body weight while he's getting around.
"But every once in a while I'll just put a regular shoe on and I'll walk around the house," Hartline said. "Right now, I just took everything off and I'm walking around in my bare feet trying to strengthen my ankle, which is the hardest part."
He proclaims that his actual leg is fine now although it's not completely healed.
"Nothing hurts there, it's just that the bones in my feet are sore because I've been putting my weight on it. Things like that," he said. "It's just all a matter of time, but it's getting pretty good."
It will be two months since he sustained the injury on Oct. 28.
"I'm coming back real fast which is really good," Hartline said. "The plan was that we wanted to get the rod out at the beginning of January, but we're going to try to see if I can get it out in December. That way I can speed up the healing process and I can start rehabbing to the fullest after that. We're just trying to push things along and get it done sooner than expected."
Hartline is keeping his options open so that he can either make a full comeback in time to compete in the track season, something he fully intended to do before the injury, or so that he can enroll early at Ohio State and participate in spring ball.
"I'm really torn right now," said Hartline who has been seriously considering the pros and cons of early enrollment at OSU. "There's no point in graduating early if my leg's not ready. Initially I wanted to graduate early if my leg wasn't ready just to go down and get a playbook in my hand and have them rehab me. But Coach (Jim Tressel) has been kind of saying that if you're going to come down and start your clock, you might as well be ready to go.
"So there's that part of it and then there's the fact that there's a new rule coming in how we could have five years automatically no matter what. No redshirt, no matter what. Everyone gets five years. So if that happens, then I'm not really wasting time by coming down early."
In addition to all of that, Hartline is at the point now where he just wants to graduate early and put all of his focus on nothing but football.
"I went through all of the practicing (this summer) and all that stuff, but I didn't really get to the point where I was competing in a game. And so I'm thriving for that." he said. "I'm really missing football and I still haven't had a season so it'll be almost like I haven't played for two years."
So he said it's all up in the air right now whether he graduates early from GlenOak or not.
"I'm clear with my school so it will probably be a late December decision whether I graduate or not," Hartline said. "If I end up not graduating, then I'll stay and run track and then hit a couple of all-star games in the summer."
Whether it's track or football, Hartline said he thinks he will be full-go by the spring time.
The way he explained it, the break will be completely healed by the end of December and then the rod will come out. When they take the rod out, the bones should be strong except for where the two screws connected the rod to his tibia or shin bone, one on the top and one on the bottom.
"A hole will calcify a lot faster than a break, and I'll be able to walk and everything," Hartline said. "Probably right after surgery, I'll have a couple of weeks where I'll be in a cast just to let it start calcifying and stuff like that. There will be weak parts of my bone but I'll be able to walk right away so rehab will be a lot shorter than the first time around."
His decision to enroll early will all be based on how the leg actually progresses.
"It's all a toss up," Hartline said. "It all depends on how the leg heals. We'll find out probably within the next month or month and a half. At least at the beginning of December or the end of November we'll kind of know."
Right now Hartline is concentrating mostly on GlenOak's big match up with unbeaten Austintown Fitch this weekend. He speaks as if he's playing in the game himself.
"It's a real big game, and if we beat them, that'll launch us into the playoffs, that followed by a win against Perry," Hartline said. "So it's a really big game. It can put us at 7-3 or 6-4, so it's a make or break game."
His spirits couldn't be any higher despite his personal adversity.
"I had that first week or so where I knew I would be okay and I knew that I would get through this, but then it really starts to set in," he said. "I always was moved around to different positions my entire career from just being the top athlete in my age group, and this year I had my position on offense and defense all set and I really knew what I was expected to do. I worked my butt off the whole summer for it and it kind of all went to shame.
"But I guess there will be a reason for it and I'll probably be even more hungry when I get down to OSU. I think I'll turn a couple of heads and they don't even know it. So hopefully when I get down to OSU I won't let you guys down. I'm just ready to move on to college football."
Right after the playoffs, that is.