Strongest junior in the country?

The Pittsburgh area has had its share of strong linemen over the years, but few match up with Butler High School behemoth Nate Hartung. <br><br> Hartung, at just over 6'3" and tipping the scales at 400 pounds, dominates at center with his brute strength and giant hands.

"When he shakes your hand, it disappears," says Hartung's coach, Garry Cathell.

And the strength?

At the Keystone Games, a Pennsylvania amateur athletic event modeled after the Olympics, Hartung broke several state records.

"I didn't really feel like doing it because I had a sprained ankle," says Hartung. "I looked and saw that I really didn't fit in any weight category obviously, so I just saw the record and I knew I could do it."

Sprained ankle and all, Hartung, still only 16 years old, benched 425 pounds and dead lifted 600 pounds.

"I can do a lot better now."

According to Hartung he now benches 465 and squats an amazing 700 pounds.

And he doesn't consider himself a weightlifter, but instead a football player that lifts weights to help him in football.

He doesn't have great speed, but does have quick feet, according to Coach Cathell, about Hartung, who even plays basketball for Butler and averages 12 points a game.

"Seeing him run up the court next to those other guys is something else," laughs Cathell.

When asked if any college coaches have told him that he will have to slim down some,. Hartung says, "not yet, but I'm sure they will. And my high school coaches tell me that I should lose some. But I eat healthy, planned meals and play basketball. I'm just big."

When told that he will have access to dieticians in college, Hartung, who was 5'10" and 280 pounds in sixth grade, replies, "Sweet".

Extremely gentle off the court, Hartung, one of nine children, is a Mormon and has a very loving and strict family life.

According to his father, Nate's mother would like to see her son go to Brigham Young where he went to camp last year and was voted the most outstanding lineman. But Nate has no favorites.

"BYU hasn't contacted me much in awhile. I don't know. They don't seem interested."

Nate Hartung also says that local schools Pittsburgh and Penn State haven't been in contact often in the early stages of his recruitment. And always the gentle giant, Nate says, "I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't say that. I don't want to step on anyone's toes. I don't want anyone to stop recruiting me for saying that."

Hartung doesn't need to worry. While he says he is still wide open on a choice, he has received a lot of interest.

"I went to Ohio State and to West Virginia on unofficial visits. Both sent me tickets to watch their basketball teams."

Hartung loved the experience.

"Both places are awesome. I like Ohio State's style of offensive line play. Well, and West Virginia's, too," says Hartung, quick to clarify so as not to offend.

Even Hartung's dad was impressed.

"His mother is Mormon and wants him to go to BYU, but you walk into that stadium at Ohio State and what can you say?"

Hartung says that Iowa sent tickets for him but that the trip would have been too long so he called them on the phone instead. He also says that very recently Maryland and Virginia also sent basketball tickets to him so that he can come visit.

Hartung, holder of a 3.3 GPA, says he is wide open and just wants to play at whoever wants him and wherever they want him to play.

"Wherever they put me, I don't care. They could play me at quarterback. I don't care. Wouldn't that be a sight?," laughs Hartung.

Panther More Top Stories