Last fall, Brian Hartline couldn't wait for his senior year to begin at GlenOak High School in suburban Canton.
The Ohio State recruit was considered one of the state's quickest and most productive receivers.
And he expected to snag a bushel-full of passes from his younger brother, Mike, the GlenOak quarterback.
But in the second quarter of his first game last August, Hartline's season was shattered.
He broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg while returning a punt.
As Hartline lay on the field, he pounded his fist into the ground, partly in disgust and partly because of the excruciating pain he was feeling.
"It didn't really hit me right away," he said. "There was a delay of about 10 seconds or so. I wanted to get up and go back to the huddle, but my body wouldn't let me.
"I felt severe pain in my lower left leg. When I looked down at it, it was at a 45-degree angle. It was an odd sight."
Hartline knew his once-promising season was finished, even before he was carried off the field. Once at the hospital, he had two screws and a foot-long rod placed in his leg to help the healing process.
Doctors reiterated to Hartline and his family that the injury was not career-threatening.
A few days later, Ohio State informed Hartline - who had given an oral commitment to the Buckeyes last June - that his scholarship offer would stand, regardless of the injury.
"That definitely made me feel good and kept me motivated," he said.
Hartline was among 18 players to sign a national letter of intent with the Buckeyes yesterday, and he is one of 11 recruits from the Buckeye State. Most experts rank Ohio State's recruiting class third-best in the Big Ten, behind Michigan and Iowa.
Hartline, a 6-3, 175-pounder who runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and carries a 3.8 grade-point average, is rated the third-best receiver in Ohio and the 12th prospect overall by Rivals.com.
However, he isn't sure if Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will use him at receiver or defensive back. Hartline started at both positions for GlenOak, the same school that sent former cornerback Dustin Fox to the Buckeyes, along with guard T.J. Downing.
In addition to Hartline, the Buckeyes signed four other receivers/defensive backs - Jamario O'Neal, Andre Amos, Donald Washington and Malcolm Jenkins. A fifth recruit, Brian Robiskie, is the only one listed exclusively as a receiver.
You may recall that ultra-talented freshman Ted Ginn Jr. began last season as a defensive back before shifting to receiver midway through the season.
"In my mind, I'm going to Ohio State as an offensive player, as a receiver," Hartline said. "But if the coaches think I might be a better defensive player, then I'll move. It'll be no problem. I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Hartline, who has begun light running after having the two screws and rod removed from his leg the week before Christmas, knows there is a better-than-average chance he might redshirt as a freshman, especially since Ohio State's receiving corps is one of its positions of strength.
Junior Santonio Holmes was a deep threat who led the Buckeyes in receptions, yards and touchdown catches last season. Ginn, despite his late start on offense, finished as the second-leading receiver.
And Anthony Gonzalez, a redshirt freshman, also came up big at the end, helping the Buckeyes win five of their last six games for an 8-4 finish.
"Coach Tressel said he can't even give me an answer now as to whether I will redshirt or not next year," said Hartline, who chose Ohio State over Michigan State, Notre Dame, Michigan and Purdue. "He said he wants to see how I heal, and how I'm doing, before he makes any final decision on that."
Hartline, who estimates his injured leg is 80 percent healed, plans to run track for GlenOak this spring. He finished second in the state in 300-meter hurdles last year and fourth in the 110 hurdles.
He also intends to attend some meetings and practices at Ohio State, and then take part in the Buckeyes' summer practices after participating in the prestigious Big 33 game.
"I have good hands," Hartline said. "I just need my leg to be strong, and I'll be OK."
With any luck at all, Hartline may eventually get a chance to catch a pass for the Buckeyes from his brother.
Mike Hartline, who just completed his junior season at GlenOak, is considered the top quarterback prospect in the state. He is being courted by Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State and Purdue.
"I'm really happy to be a Buckeye," Brian said. "It's a dream come true. Hopefully, I'll be able to talk my brother into joining me next year."
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