When he thinks about what the Worthington Christian High School football team accomplished last fall, former NFL offensive lineman Jeff Hartings knows how close it was to an even bigger payoff.
He’ll get a shot at providing some of the intangibles he believes are necessary to win championships as the second coach of a program that settled for a runner-up finish in the MSL-Ohio Division last season.
On April 19, Hartings was named coach, replacing Brian Stier. He served as the offensive and defensive line coach the past two seasons under Stier, who compiled an 11-19 record in three seasons.
“I feel like we had the talent last year to win a league title, but we just didn’t have enough time to develop the senior class,” Hartings said. “We want to create an atmosphere where kids serve one another, attracting more kids for football and help maximize them genetically.
“Worthington Christian is a good fit for me. I’m a Christian and I want to help develop boys into men, and I’m hoping to use football for that platform.”
Hartings, 44, is a 1991 St. Henry graduate who will be a head coach for the first time, though he has an extensive background in the sport.
He played for Penn State and was a first-team All-American in 1994 and ’95, and then was selected with the 23rd pick in the 1996 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.
Hartings played for the Lions from 1996-2000 before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent in 2001. The Steelers moved him from right guard to center and he was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl in both 2004 and ’05. He retired after the 2006 season.
Hartings, who performed missionary work in Nicaragua during his NFL career, began coaching at the prep level six years ago when he still lived in the Pittsburgh area.
He has eight children, including six who attend Worthington Christian.
His sophomore son, Michael, had 64 tackles and eight tackles for loss and was named second-team all-MSL-Cardinal last season, as the Warriors finished 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the league, second behind Harvest Prep (6-0).
Worthington Christian lost to Harvest Prep 40-30 in week 4 to fall to 1-3 but won five of its final six games.
Under Stier, the Warriors went 1-9 in 2014 and 4-6 in 2015.
“Jeff has been a part of our school and has got multiple kids in our school,” athletics director Kevin Weakley said. “One thing he does really well is talk to the kids and parents and has developed relationships. People have a respect level for him. As people have gotten to know him, they see a person that loves the Lord and wants to use football to develop men.”
Worthington Christian, which opened in 1973, hired Stier as its first football coach in 2011. He was coaching the Columbus Crusaders’ club team at the time he was hired by the Warriors.
Worthington Christian had a middle school team in 2012 and a junior varsity in 2013.
“Obviously, I’m excited to be able to be a part of a great program,” Hartings said. “Our family has gotten to know the community and know the people and I’m looking forward to doing everything I can to help our students love football. I’ve coached football for six years, and three years ago I decided to take more of a leadership role, quite honestly because God has called me to be a head coach. I really wanted to be a head coach and I didn’t want to leave Worthington Christian.”