There are steps and stages as college football coaches progress to the presumed goal of being a head coach.
First, you get your foot in the door. Eventually you land a job as a position coach. Then you get bumped up to a coordinator. Then you take a head coaching position at a lesser place and start the climbing process all over again.
That isn’t the process for everyone, but it’s happened this way often enough as to be a well-marked path for most.
For Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline, his journey so far has followed suit.
His foot in the door came in 2016 prior to the playoff game against Clemson. He actually worked on the scout team at receiver.
That’s not quite how Urban Meyer got his first job in coaching, but a foot in the door is a foot in the door.
Meyer saw plenty to like in Hartline and offered him a quality control position for the following season. Then prior to the 2018 season, Hartline took over completely after Zach Smith was fired.
Hartline took over a veteran room last season and Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon all had their best seasons as fifth-year seniors. The progression continued this season for both Hartline and the receivers who remained.
Every review has been positive from his players and his respective head coaches. The recruiting hasn’t gone so bad either, as the Buckeyes just signed four of the top 15 receivers in the 2020 class this year, which follows two of the top 13 the year before.
All of this individual success for Hartline has people wondering just how long he’ll be happy being a receivers coach. At some point, he has to continue on that typical coaching journey, right?
“I think for me, college football is a crazy, crazy world and it’s only getting crazier,” Hartline said on Wednesday. “I think that it all comes back down to purpose, in my opinion, and nothing against any of the other coaches out there, I have a strong passion for Ohio State.”
That passion goes back more than a decade to his playing days as a Buckeye. And even further back that that, growing up in Northeast Ohio and playing at Canton GlenOak.
“I’m from two hours from here. My wife is from Columbus,” he said. “Her family’s here. My family’s only two hours away. My friends that are all here from high school live here. I’m very passionate about Ohio State.”
Hartline has experienced the sport differently than other college coaches. He has already reached the pinnacle of the sport, playing in the NFL for seven years, producing two 1,000-yard seasons along the way. His desires don’t necessarily fall in line with your typical college coach.
At least not yet.
“At this point it’s really early and I don’t want to sound ignorant to the fact, but I don’t know what would get me out of this city, frankly, unless I’m just not good,” he said.
“So hopefully I can control that and keep getting better. But I think that my passion lies in the receivers room. I love coaching the wide receivers. And there’s a lot of coaches that say they’ll never leave. And you know, never’s a long time. But again, being honest, realistically I just don’t see a situation where hopefully I’m out of here anytime soon.”
Hartline has referred to his decision to become a coach as a calling.
As a position coach, Hartline is ensconced in the teaching process. The further up the coaching ladder a person goes, however, the less coaching and teaching they actually get to do.
For now, Hartline doesn’t foresee any changes. Nor does he want them.
“I hope I’m here for a long time,” he said. “Again, I’ve earned it year in and year out. It’s not given to anybody. But currently, I have no desire to go there, go here. I just don’t. I love being here. I love talking to you guys. And it’s very natural and easy to just shoot from the heart. So, I prefer to live in that world. And I’ll be here as long as hopefully they’ll have me.”