Corbin Hartsock never had a moment of doubt. He admits that giving up on his high school football career after suffering a season-ending knee injury this spring would have been easy but he never considered it.
“I always knew I was going to come back out and give back to my team,” the Olympia senior said. “They’re always there for me, so I have to give back to them.”
Hartsock, a Division I prospect with an offer from Eastern Washington University, was a two-way starter for the Bears as a junior. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he was projected to be the cornerstone of Olympia’s senior-heavy team this season.
But, at an Oregon State University camp this spring, Hartsock’s left knee — which he was cleared to play on after injuring it late last season — gave out while running a route.
“I did that, and I was kind of in shock,” he said. “Not even because I knew a lot of colleges would turn their backs, but (because) this is my senior year. ... It was devastating.”
Hartsock was an Olympian All-Area selection at tight end as a junior, hauling in 15 catches for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He recorded 66 tackles (18 for losses) and six sacks as a defensive end.
“Anytime you lose a player the magnitude of Corbin Hartsock — who is your best player, your hardest worker, your best leader — it’s obviously a huge hit to your program,” Olympia coach Steve Davis said.
Davis, a longtime assistant who was hired in March to replace outgoing coach Bill Beattie, met with Hartsock after he tore his ACL in June.
“We talked about his role changing, and how important he would be to our success, and he’s all in for it,” Davis said. “He’s one of the greatest character kids you’ll ever meet in your life.”
Hartsock was one of the players who kept the weight room initiative going between the time Beattie left and the time Davis was officially hired. Hartsock’s teammates voted him a captain, and that meant a lot to him, he said.
“He’s a great role model for all of us to look up to,” Olympia senior quarterback Ketner Young said. “It’s a bummer he’s hurt, because he was a beast tight end. I think he’s the best tight end, (defensive) end in the state, honestly. He’s a great guy, works harder than anyone I know.”
Hartsock’s presence on the field will obviously be missed, Davis said, but he hasn’t missed a minute with the program. Hartsock said he spends a lot of time teaching other players about what he did last year, and how he was able to find success against some of the best players in the Class 4A South Puget Sound League.
He also works on boosting the confidence of his teammates and leading by example. He pointed to former Olympia players — like David Woodward, who is now a linebacker at Utah State — that led by example when he was an underclassman.
“It definitely helped me out on the field,” Hartsock said. “If you don’t walk in like you’re going to dominate, you’re not. You just have to have that confidence, and that’s what I’m trying to give to some of the younger guys, and some of the older guys, too.”
Davis said all players have to do is take one look at Hartsock, and they’ll play a bit harder.
“He might have a bigger overall role with the program than he did before,” Davis said. “As good of a physical player as he is, he’s kind of assumed that student-coach role. He still, every day, does so much.”
Hartsock’s other focus is on rehabbing his knee. He said the injury has helped him mature.
“You learn to have a strong character, and give back and not give up,” Hartsock said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with my knee, but I’m not going to give up.”
Even with the injury, Davis said other Division I schools still remain in contact about Hartsock.
“They would be smart to pursue him,” Davis said. “Wherever he ends up, they’re going to end up with not only a great physical player, but a great character guy who is going to do great things.”
A large senior class have coaches and players eying a deep playoff run after getting stuck at the same juncture the past several years. The Bears haven’t advanced out of the district round since 2011.
“I love where we’re at right now,” Hartsock said. “The intensity is great. Everybody is super positive.”
Hartsock said he plans on spending his Friday nights pumping up his teammates, and giving them tips from the sideline.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.