How about a track meet in Akron, Ohio, of all places?
"I competed at the Akron meet for my first meet in three years (last weekend) and I've never been more nervous," Hartline said. "I was more nervous for a little Akron meet than I ever was for a football game. Dead serious."
Despite the nerves, the return of the Ohio State wide receiver to the track went well by all accounts. Hartline ran the 60-meter hurdles in a time of 8.19, enough to finish in second place and leave men's track head coach Robert Gary saying that he thinks Hartline can make the Big Ten finals this weekend in Madison, Wis. The preliminaries will take place tomorrow and the final on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who is still going through 6 a.m. winter workouts with his football teammates.
"It's difficult, but that was the big thing coming in," he said. "I told both coaches (Gary and OSU football coach Jim Tressel), the biggest thing is going to be communication and trust. I work out at 6 and go to class all day and come here at 2. I'm kind of doubling up on workouts every day but they're working with me."
The early workouts are one of the reasons Hartline is the only Buckeye football player to be taking part in the indoor track season. Last year, Buckeyes Malcolm Jenkins, Chimdi Chekwa and Dan Potokar formed three-quarters of OSU's 4x100-meter relay team in the outdoor season once spring practice was over, and cornerback Donald Washington joined the Buckeye long jumpers.
While Gary and Hartline expect some of those same names – save Potokar, who is battling testicular cancer – to return come spring, Hartline is the lone ranger at this point when it comes to the indoor track season.
"I was kind of lobbying to get some guys to come out, but a lot of guys were tentative with doubling up the two sports," Hartline said. "It's pretty demanding."
However, the former track standout at Canton (Ohio) GlenOak said all he's missing is sleep, and he would not be denied a chance to get back to the sport he loves. He first took up the hurdles in high school when one of his coaches suggested giving it a try. Hartline took to the sport like a duck to water.
"That was really probably the most early success that I had on a bigger level with a sport," he said. "You kind of latch on to it. No matter how it evolves, you still have that one first. It's kind of like your first love. No matter what happens you always think about it."
Hartline called the hurdles event the gateway into football for him. While at GlenOak, he started track during his sophomore year and then rose to prominence in football during his junior year. After being supplanted at quarterback for the Golden Eagles after four games, he moved to wideout and caught 41 passes for 411 yards from his brother Mike, who now plays at Kentucky.
Even after Hartline tore up his leg during the first game of his senior season in football, he battled back for the track season and won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles as a senior.
The wideout, who finished 2007 as OSU's No. 2 wideout with 52 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns, said he appreciates the finer points of the event as much as he enjoys working on the little things to make himself into a better receiver.
"I just love breaking down film, learning how an inch can take off one-tenth or half of a 10th of a second," he said. "Stuff like that is a lot of fun. There's a lot more film in track, especially hurdles, than you would imagine."
It's those little things in track that he appreciates that pulled him out of retirement in the sport. This year is the first time the redshirt sophomore has participated in track since that 2005 year, his senior year in high school.
"I was missing it, but a lot of it too was just that I didn't want to leave college and think, ‘What if?' or, ‘Could I have done it?' " he said. "I just wanted to clear the air of ‘Could I do it?' It's college, I try to live it up."
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Hartline's choice has been Gary, who has had success in getting some of OSU's best football players to join him on the track side. He finally got Hartline to make the move after he had talked to the North Canton native for a good bit of time.
"His first commitment is to football and also academics, but a lot of those guys, they really like track," Gary said. "They all did it in high school. Coach Tressel has been great and having Butch (Reynolds) has really been a positive. It's pretty special. He's doing pretty good."
As for Hartline's chances this weekend, his time of 8.19 at the Akron Open places him 10th in the Big Ten going into the championships, just 0.15 seconds behind the fourth-place time of Nate Larkin of Wisconsin. But as one would expect, Hartline has set his goals even higher than that.
"Any way I can help this team is nice," he said. "I want to be top three, really. That's kind of my goal so we'll see how things go."