Odd reunion for Butler grads
BUTLER TWP —
Saturday, they will share a common goal on the same field — but only one can succeed.
“I'm sure we'll talk after the game,” Hartung said. “Hopefully, I'll be on the winning end and will have to lift his spirits.”
Hartung is a first team all-conference guard with Winston-Salem State in North Carolina. O'Donnell is the backup left guard at Indiana University of Pa. The two teams clash at noon Saturday in an NCAA Division II playoff game in Winston-Salem.
IUP is 12-1 on the year, Winston-Salem is 12-0.
“Nate's doing great down there and I'm happy for him,” O'Donnell said. “He's overcome a lot of adversity to get where he's at.”
Hartung has battled numerous injuries and stops at Brigham Young and Eastern Arizona before landing at Winston-Salem State.
O'Donnell, who stands 5-foot-11, 256 pounds, is a redshirt sophomore who has seen action in five games this season.
“That's not bad for a walk-on with a really good team,” Hartung said. “I like Dylan. He played football with my brother (Noah) at Butler. He's a nicer player.”
Both are thrilled to be playing with winners in college. Butler was 1-9 during Hartung's senior year. The Golden Tornado were 3-24 during O'Donnell's three years as a starter.
O'Donnell was named Butler's Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior.
“I visited Mount Union and Gannon, but IUP had the winning tradition there and it wasn't too far away,” O'Donnell said. “I wanted to win and saw that as my best opportunity.”
O'Donnell is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Nick Carnicella, a first team all-conference guard. In fact, four of the five starters along IUP's offensive line made either first or second team All-PSAC.
“Getting a chance to go out there and practice with those guys everyday has been tremendous. I've learned a ton from them,” O'Donnell said.
Hartung and O'Donnell share the same work ethic. They worked out together in the Butler High School weight room this past summer.
“We're both pretty fortunate to still be playing football at this time of year,” Hartung said. “This should be a fun game Saturday.
“Our team has been dealing with a bunch of injuries, including myself. Our quarterback was all-conference and didn't take a snap last week (37-14 win over Shippensburg) and our offense was rusty after getting a first-round bye. We'll be much healthier for this game.”
Hartung is playing on a bad ankle that will require surgery when the season is over.
IUP has already defeated one unbeaten opponent — New Haven, 17-14 — on the road in the Division II playoffs and hopes to take down another one.
“Our goal is to win the national championship,” O'Donnell said. “This is one of Indiana's best teams and I'm proud to be part of it. My goal down the road is to keep working hard and earn more playing time.”
In the meantime, O'Donnell hopes to travel down the road and spoil a fellow graduate's title plans.
“I'm sure we'll talk after the game,” O'Donnell said. “We'll probably talk about our hometown, get caught up on some mutual friends, that's about it.
“One of us will be celebrating after that.”