When Jared Hartman received the diagnosis, he knew what he was in for.
The pain didn’t stop for the Belle Vernon High School quarterback as he laid on the turf at West Mifflin and winced while looking at his displaced right knee.
“I knew something was wrong,” Hartman remembered. “My whole knee was on the right side of my leg.”
Going straight from the football field to the UPMC Children’s Hospital on that Friday night last October, Hartman suffered through a long wait before being told that he tore his ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus.
“I didn’t think that would be the diagnosis. It was one of the harder pieces of news I had ever heard in my life,” Hartman said.
It was a knee injury all too familiar for the Hartmans, who went through this process a few years ago when Jared’s older brother, Jordan, tore his ACL and missed his senior season of basketball for the Leopards.
“I remember seeing how the process was with him,” Hartman said. “I knew how hard it was. But it also gave me somebody right by my side.”
Seven-and-a-half months removed from surgery on Halloween, Hartman, a two-year starter at quarterback, received news that there would be a year No. 3. A speedy recovery – the typical length is 9 to 12 months – has Hartman walking, running and cutting on the knee. He has permission to return to all football-related activities.
Hartman is playing on a summer-league baseball team and participating in Belle Vernon’s football workouts. The Leopards begin their week of heat acclimation Aug. 5 before camp starts the following week.
“It was great to finally hear those words, ‘You are cleared,’” Hartman said. “It was the best feeling. It was such a long process. The hardest part was just sitting out at the end of last season.”
Hartman completed 47 of 64 passes for 510 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He also carried the football 44 times for 178 yards and another seven scores.
Last year’s schedule allowed the replacements for Hartman – underclassmen wide receivers Nolan Labuda and Andrew Pacak – to gain familiarity with the position. To finish the regular season, Belle Vernon needed to only throw a total of 19 times against struggling Plum and Ringgold. In the Leopards’ WPIAL Class 4A first-round playoff game against Beaver, a 49-11 win, Labuda and Pacak combined to go 11 for 21 with 199 yards and two passing touchdowns.
For the second consecutive season, Belle Vernon’s playoff run came to an abrupt halt one game shy of Heinz Field in a loss to eventual district champion South Fayette, which limited workhorse running back Mason Pascoe to 88 yards on 26 carries.
The Leopards lost in the quarterfinals in 2015 and 2016.
“There definitely is some motivation this year,” Hartman said. “Everybody looks up to the quarterback. My teammates were all real excited when I got cleared, texting me and congratulating me in the locker room the next day. I think we will still rely on our running game but feel we could air it out a little bit more this year. It doesn’t matter to me. We just want to be successful.”