COLUMBUS — Brian Hartline could live comfortably on the money he made playing in the NFL.
Instead, after taking a year off following the end of his NFL career, the 33-year-old, third-year Ohio State assistant saw an opportunity to do something better: Help kids realize their potential.
And a lot of the country’s best young wide receivers are lining up for his tutelage. The reason for that is simple: Hartline knows what he’s doing, and he does it as a genuine person and teacher. That’s why he’s quickly answered any questions about his ability to recruit.
“I’ve been doing this a fair amount of years,” Nate Moore, who coaches Ohio State commit Jayden Ballard, told Lettermen Row.”There are a lot of coaches out there that are a used car salesman, for lack of a better term. Then there are coaches out there that are just really, really genuine people.
“Brian Hartline is that.”
Being as young as he is, Hartline easily identifies with players around the country. He can sincerely and honestly tell young men and their families that he’s been where they are now since he was once recruited by Ohio State in the Class of 2005. He can give advice and perspective from a vantage point that most of his peers can’t, and he’s also done the work in a Buckeyes uniform to get to the NFL. He knows how to make that happen for the young men he coaches and is doing it out of a love of football. A love of teaching it.
Nothing more, nothing less.
“I don’t want anything from a guy,” Brian Hartline said. “If they feel at this point: ‘I want this guy to coach me.’ Well, I guess that took care of itself. But I really enjoy getting to know young men who want to reach their dreams.”
For most kids who have picked up a football, that dream is simple and getting to the NFL is the goal. Hartline has done that, and it’s an experience that recruits can’t ignore. But that’s not what the Buckeyes receiver coach is preaching on the recruiting trail. That’s a byproduct of his message, not the message.
“I just want them to know who I am, what I stand for, what my family stands for and what Ohio State is all about,” the 247Sports.com Recruiter of the Year for the 2020 cycle said. “And then I’ll let the relationship fall where it falls. The conversation about the NFL is a quick conversation. At the end of the day, ‘Hey what was it like? Oh, that’s cool. What kind of cars did you have? Oh that’s cool.’ That’s it. It’s a good experience and a way to kind of connect, but I don’t really talk about it a whole lot.
“Sure, there’s some cool stories I could tell, but outside of that, I don’t think it plays that big of a part.”
For Ohio State commitment Marvin Harrison, it’s the shared passion that Hartline has for football that opens the door with young prospects like himself.
“I think his love for the game is what makes it so easy to connect with him,” Harrison told Lettermen Row. “He loves coaching football. He loves talking football and I love to play and talk football just as much.”
Ohio State is writing the checks of course, so at some point the conversation needs to turn to the program. That’s where Hartline’s true passion is, and it’s not hard to pick that up in his tone. It’s the school that draws recruits, not the receivers coach. It’s the same school, the same program that drew him in 15 years ago.
“From a perspective as a player, Ohio State is part of the process because it’s the best place in the country to play football,” Hartline said. “The draft takes care of itself, everyone knows that. I don’t even really need to talk about that.”
To coach the type of person and player the Buckeyes want, it can’t just be about getting to the NFL. According to Moore, Hartline is getting great young men to commit to Ohio State because the NFL dreams are realistic but aren’t the primary part of the sales pitch.
“As a person, he cares,” Moore said. “He cares about his players and about the families that he’s recruiting. But Brian Hartline is also very, very smart and knows how to sell the school. But I don’t think anybody is picking Ohio State or wanting to play for Brian Hartline because he played in the NFL.
“They want to play for him because he’s a great person who cares about them and he’s going to make them better.”
Does the fact that Hartline played in the NFL help him as a recruiter for the Buckeyes? Absolutely, and it’d be silly to suggest otherwise. But according to Luther Burden, the country’s No. 3-ranked receiver in the Class of 2022, knowing Hartline could get him there is far more important.
“Being that he played the position at a high level, I feel he has the knowledge to help his players get to the next level,” Burden told Lettermen Row. “He knows his stuff. Playing at that level, there’s so much he can teach to kids now.”
And teach he does.
Brian Hartline didn’t need to be a college football coach, but he wanted to be. That has turned out to be a very good thing for Ohio State on and off the field.