The one high school senior that I've probably spoken with the most this year is the one that would have been down in San Antonio this week preparing to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday if not for a season-ending injury back in week one.
Brian Hartline of Canton GlenOak is another Ohio State commitment that would have been in the prestigious national all-star game if he didn't break both bones in his left leg in the season lid-lifter. But he'll be in San Antonio this weekend anyway. He's going down there to root on his brother Mike, who will participate in the combine on Saturday night and Sunday, and to do his part to help shore up the final recruiting push for Ohio State down the stretch.
Despite the cruel injury that abruptly ended his dreams for a productive senior season, Hartline has been OSU's greatest ambassador this year among his fellow Buckeye recruits. From what I can tell, he's talked-up Ohio State football to more prospects than anyone since he committed to Ohio State, and even before that, and he'll continue with the effort when he's down in Texas this weekend.
"I need to go down there and help close this class out," said Hartline, who will arrive in San Antonio with his brother Mike on Friday. "At least I want to help as much as I can."
Even the Kevin Bemoll de-commitment didn't deter Hartline's thinking in any way.
"I want the kids that want to be Buckeyes," he said. "If you're ready to be a Buckeye and you're ready to win some national championships, then you need to come with us."
Hartline has an amazing outlook for someone who was robbed of so much because of the injury, and it's contagious. That's probably why he's healed up from his injury so well. He was literally a month and half ahead of schedule when he got the rod and screws taken out of his leg on the Wednesday before Christmas.
And now he's practically healthy enough to play in the all-star game on Saturday. But obviously it's way too soon.
"I might be able to take the contact, but I wouldn't be able to handle it mentally," Hartline said. "There's no way that I would feel comfortable taking hits and rolling over on my leg right now. I'd say it's a little too early for sure. But I'm definitely going to be running track. So give me a month or two and then I'll be okay."
But just weeks after having his surgery to remove the rod and screws, he's training with the mentality that he's playing in an all-star game.
"I'm already running routes and running period. Running ladders and all kinds of different drills," Hartline said. "Really the only thing that's holding me up right now is a little bit of swelling in my knee from my incision to pull the rod out, but that goes down every week. Other than that, every once in a while the break line will be sore, but there's not much holding me back."
Admittedly it doesn't quite feel like a brand new leg just yet, but he believes that it will be even better than the old model.
"It's getting there. I'm on my way back and it's getting pretty close," he said. "It's going good. The doctor said it's all about pain-permitting now. In other words whatever you can do, you can do, and whatever you can't, you just don't do it."
Hartline actually toyed with the idea of graduating early and enrolling at Ohio State so he could rehab his knee under their care and supervision, but since he wouldn't be able to fully participate in spring drills, he decided on staying in school and running track. And now he actually has his mind set on playing in an all-star game before he officially enrolls at OSU this summer.
Brian Hartline's brother Mike will
"I was selected for the Big 33, so I'm probably going to play in that," Hartline said. "The (head) coach called my coach to see if I would even be able to play. I had to be approved before he went along and okayed me. In July, I'm going to 100 percent healed and it's time to let it all out by then anyway. My local all-star game is the same week (as the Big 33) so I have to pick between the two."
And as far as his track season is concerned, Hartline intends to be full-go at the beginning of the season, but he will be more selective about the events and the meets that he runs in at first. Ultimately, he would like to make a return trip to Columbus in June to have a shot at a state title. He finished a disappointing second in the 300 hurdles last year.
"I might compete in bigger meets early on and not waste my time in smaller meets because I don't want any injuries occurring while I'm trying to get back into the grove again," Hartline said. "But as far as competing later on in the season, it's full go."
The hurdles might actually be his last obstacle that Hartline will try to hurdle.
"That definitely won't come until later on in the season," he said. "I might run the open 400 to get ready for the 300s or the open 100 to get ready for the 110s. So I might not jump into the hurdles until the beginning of May."
Although track should pacify his competitive appetite once the weather breaks and he heads outdoors to train, Hartline wont be completely sated until he's back performing again on the gridiron.
His time spent in San Antonio this weekend just might step up the healing process in his leg, and certainly in his mind, even more.
"It will be good just to see what kind of company that I'll be in for the next four or five year and see Jamario (O'Neal) and Alex (Boone) and a bunch of those guys play," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it."
And more than anything, he's looking forward to being a Buckeye. Hartline's commitment to Ohio State never wavered throughout all the negative allegations heaved at Jim Tressel and the football program.
"It got to the point where I don't care if we get sanctioned. I don't care what happens, I just want to go Ohio State and play football and just leave it at that," Hartline said. "It didn't matter what anybody said because I know who Tressel is and I think I know what the program is all about. So I'm not really even going to worry about it."
"I think everything is turning out how it's supposed to turn out. Any individual player that needs punished, is fine but to punish the whole university for one booster is ridiculous."
Hartline thinks it's time to get over it and move on. That's basically the attitude that he's had about his injury as well as all of the tired allegations that have been aimed at Ohio State.
"It's an honor to be an Ohio State Buckeye," he said. "And it's a privilege."
It's guys like Brian Hartline that truly represent what Buckeye football is
all about, whether he gets his younger brother to follow him to Ohio State or