Although he’s already in the midst of his fourth season as Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, it still doesn't seem real to Brian Hartline.
“I pinch myself and can’t believe I’m the receivers coach at Ohio State,” Hartline said during his press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday afternoon. “That’s pretty surreal to me more times than you probably think, and I don’t take it for granted.
"Sometimes in the hustle and bustle, you kind of lose track of that and you’re more focused on executing and making sure everyone understands what is going on. But there are definitely times on game days or pregame and throughout the week, it kind of hits me in the face. It makes me smile to this day.”
The 34-year-old Hartline starred for the Buckeyes from 2005-08, and then after a seven-year professional career with the NFL's Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, joined the staff as a quality control coach in 2017.
He was promoted to interim wide receivers coach the following year amid the Zach Smith investigation, then had the interim tag removed after a season in which Ohio State’s wide receivers caught a combined 310 passes for 4,429 yards and 45 touchdowns – all of which were school records.
During his time in Columbus, Hartline has developed a reputation as one of the country’s elite recruiters, signing or securing commitments from a whopping 12 top-100 wide receivers, including Texas’ four-star Caleb Burton, Chicago four-star Kaleb Brown and Arizona four-star Kyion Grayes in the current recruiting cycle.
He has also developed three of the top wide receivers in the country in senior Chris Olave, junior Garrett Wilson and sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba, which is why he’s considered one of the rising stars of the coaching profession. But if and when another program comes calling, Hartline is happy right where he’s at.
“Ohio State is my home,” Hartline said. “I love it here and it’s a passion here. All I care about is this room, and that’s my main focus and my forever focus. I would be lying if I said I was thinking outside of that.
“I’m also not a person to sit here and tell you, ‘No, I’m never leaving Ohio State.’ I’m not saying I ever will. And you say, ‘Go up the ladder.’ Like, go where? This is the pinnacle of the ladder. And the ego, at this point, is pretty minimal. Maybe other people think so, but I don’t need the satisfaction of calling plays or whatever.
“To me, I’m at the pinnacle of the latter, so unless there’s a relationship that I know of somebody at this spot, that’s a big question and hard to answer. All I know is I love Ohio State, my wife is from here, we’ve lived here, love my house. It would be really hard to leave. I don’t think that’s ever really in the books.”
Hartline’s former coach, Jim Tressel, used to say there were three things that made Ohio State unique: the tradition, the people and the excellence.
One of those things brought Hartline back to Columbus, while another is the standard he tasks his unit with upholding. However, the Buckeyes hope it’s the last one that will keep him here for years to come.
“In conversations I have with my wife, we can’t imaging leaving the guys in the room,” Hartline said. “It gives me chills (to imagine) trying to walk in and tell them I’m not going to be in the room anymore. That would be really had to do.
“I don’t think I could do that, and never say never, but it chokes me up now. I can’t even imagine going in there and looking at Marvin (Harrison Jr.), Emeka (Egbuka) and Jayden (Ballard) and telling them I’m not going to be here anymore.
“At this point, I’m good. We’re going to keep going and winning football games, keep progressing and see where these guys look in a couple of years, then come back in this room and talk about them and the next ones, and so on and so forth.”
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