It's been almost a year since Brian Hartline broke his leg and he's ready to get back on the football field.
The Big 33 Classic next Saturday (July 23) will serve as Hartline's first game back since the injury. And he says he's 100 percent and ready to go.
"Oh, I'm definitely looking forward to going out there and playing in this game," Hartline told Bucknuts. "It's been a long layoff. August 28th, I broke my leg, so it's been 11 months. I'm just pumped to get out there on the field and compete."
Hartline almost played in the Ohio North-South game last month, but the invitation was extended too late.
"Yeah, I could have," Hartline said. "Because I didn't play so much during the season, there was a requirement how much I could play. All I could be eligible for was a replacement. And my family had a vacation scheduled the week of the North-South game and I was waiting to hear if I would be invited to the North-South game. But I didn't find out until two weeks before the game and that was too late. I told them, ‘I'm not going to play; I'm going to play in the Big 33.'"
The Big 33 pits Ohio versus Pennsylvania in Hershey, Pa. The entire community rallies around the game and Hartline is looking forward to the trip. Ohio's players met at OSU's Woody Hayes Athletic Center Friday morning and were expected to arrive in Hershey Friday afternoon.
"Some of my fellow incoming freshmen from OSU are going to be there on the team and it's going to be more than just playing football," Hartline said. "It's learning to play with players that you are going to be with for the next four, five years. I'm looking forward to hanging out with those guys over the next week. And hopefully we'll play well and represent Ohio with a win.
"And I hear it's a great week over in Hershey. It's full of events. We each have a host family and I've already talked to them and they sound like nice people. It should be an exciting week."
Originally, 10 future Buckeyes were slated to play in the game. But that number has been cut to seven: Hartline, Rob Schoenhoft, Andre Amos, Todd Denlinger, Austin Spitler, Brian Robiske and Lawrence Wilson.
"We're missing a few of our guys that were on the original roster," Hartline said. "Jamario (O'Neal) went to OSU early. Alex (Boone) did the same. Then, there's Jimmy (Cordle) who enrolled during the spring. Freddie (Lenix) can't play because of something with eligibility. But there is going to be a lot of us. A good number of Ohio State guys."
(Cordle was never on the roster, but Hartline's point is that he definitely would have been if he didn't arrive at OSU early.)
Hartline says he doesn't remember seeing much of the Big 33 game growing up in Ohio.
"I think I have caught glimpses of it, but I didn't know what it was and how much it meant until I started hearing about it," he said. "I've been hearing about it from (OSU head coach Jim) Tressel, our Big 33 coach (Steve Channell) and people that have been around the game."
Hartline was asked what kind of offense Channell plans to run.
"Hopefully four wide," Hartline said (what else would a receiver say?). "I think that's what we're going to go with. But he scared me at first because he's a wing-T offense guy."
Hartline's Ohio State career is now just weeks away. The Buckeyes have a lot of depth at receiver this year and a redshirt year might be in the cards for Hartline. It would also give him an extra year to rest his leg, but Hartline says he wants to play this year.
"I don't mind redshirting, but if I had to choose between the two, I don't want to redshirt," he said. "The leg's not really even an issue anymore. I worked hard to get back and it feels stronger than ever. I might have had more doubt if I hadn't ran track, but running track took all the doubt away. And that's not really an issue for me anymore. I'm ready to head on over to Hershey, then head on to OSU."
Hartline would be excited to begin his OSU career no matter what. But the fact that the Buckeyes are expected to be a top five team this year just adds to his anticipation.
"Oh, I'm thrilled to be joining such a great team," he said. "The best way to get better, for me, is to watch better people play. And when I can sit around and watch Teddy (Ginn), Santonio (Holmes) and anyone else, they're going to be kind of leading the receiving corps and it's kind of encouraging for me.
"That's another main reason why I don't want to redshirt. I'd rather play on special teams all year and be in that bowl game at the end of the year – whether it's the national championship, or any other BCS bowl. I'd rather play in that, than sit around at home and watch it on TV. So, that's just my personal belief."
Hartline says he is now 6-2 ½, 180 pounds.
"I dropped during track to about 170," he said. "But since then, I've been on a steady incline. I'm adding more and more."
The Big 33 game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the
Hersheypark Box Office at (717) 534-3911. Reserved tickets are $12, general
admission $6. For more information, check out www.big33.org.