Wake’s Hartman Is On The Shelf

Wake's Hartman Is On The Shelf
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What had been a productive and relatively healthy Fall camp for Wake Forest came to a crashing moment Wednesday morning. The school announced that fifth-year quarterback Sam Hartman will be out indefinitely with what was termed a non-football-related medical condition. There are a lot of unknowns at that point. But what is known is that based on the chronology of events Tuesday, it was at least a somewhat urgent matter. And it is known that the Demon Deacons have to prepare to move on without their team leader as Hartman is on the shelf for the foreseeable future.

Hartman was at practice Wednesday but in street clothes. As the buzz started to grow in media circles, the school said it would have an official statement at 8am. The team had Tuesday off from practice, but Hartman and others were working out. “Following a workout on Tuesday, Aug. 9, redshirt junior quarterback Sam Hartman sought medical attention for a non-football related condition,” the statement read. It provided no other specifics citing HIPAA regulations.

It was during the post-practice media session with head coach Dave Clawson that Hartman having surgery was broached. “He had a medical procedure that was non-football related,” Clawson said. He went on to thank the training staff, Dr. Chris Miles, and the medical team at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.

“Something came up that was a little unexpected. And again, our medical team did an incredible job of diagnosing it, determining what the course of action was and they took care of it with incredible time, speed, and efficiency,” Clawson said.

The official release put out by the school at the onset of practice included a statement from Hartman. “Tuesday was a frustrating day, but I am extremely grateful for our medical staff and for Dr. Chris Miles and Niles Fleet for staying with me throughout this process. I look forward to attacking this rehabilitation process and I am so appreciative of the support I have received from my family, teammates, and coaches.”

The team learned of the medical issue Tuesday night from Clawson. “We didn’t know what it was until later last night,” Clawson said after practice. “And so, we kind of prepped them last night that this was going on. Again, the concern was Sam.”

Hartman stayed throughout Wednesday’s practice. He addressed the team at the end of the morning. Clawson said of his quarterback, “He wanted to come out here with a smile and see his teammates. He wanted to address the team afterward, and he’s in a good place.”

It is widely known that in high school, Hartman had to have surgery to have a lump, caused by bacteria build-up, removed from his left shoulder. The lump was the byproduct of a birth defect in his thyroid gland. There will be no disclosure from the school as to whether this is in any way related to that previous issue.

While Hartman goes through what is being termed rehabilitation, the team has to move on without their field general and prepare for the start of the season. Clawson said he is confident Hartman will be back, but “We just don’t know when.” He added that any timeline for his return was a fluid situation. What was not specified in terms of the return was if the timeline included this season.

Wake's Hartman Is On The Shelf
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson addresses the media after Wednesday’s practice.

So, for an undefined period of time, the team has to replace not only its starting quarterback but its undeniable leader. “That’s where we’re lucky, Tony,” Clawson said when asked about it. “You look at our football team and you’ve got a seventh-year tackle. You’ve three sixth-year guards. You’ve got a fifth-year center. And you’ve got a fifth-year tight end. You’ve got a fifth-year receiver. We have leadership across the board on offense. Sam is clearly the alpha. But he has done such a great job for setting the tone and the standard, that those guys aren’t going to let that standard fall off.”

In the here and now, third-year quarterback Mitch Griffis takes over at QB1. He had already been getting a sizeable share of the reps in camp behind Hartman. Michael Kern is the second string for the time being. Clawson went to lengths to say they are still competing for the job. But Griffis clearly got most of the first-string reps on Wednesday in Hartman’s absence.

“We kind of wanted that competition to go on, but with what happened, we kind of felt like Mitch was ahead. You’ve got to feed him those one reps and get him ready.”

Griffis has appeared in eight games over his two years. He is a grand total of four of 15 passing, throwing for 56 yards and a touchdown over those appearances.

Clawson compared Griffis to Hartman. “He’s a little bit like Sam in terms of how important football is. He’s a live-it guy.”

Offensive lineman Sean Maginn said the team balanced Wednesday’s practice between wanting the best for Hartman, while also keeping a focus on the task at hand. “He’s our captain. He’s our leader. But we’ve still got a job to do,” he said. Maginn said it made a difference seeing Hartman at practice. “It’s human instinct to worry about him. So just to see him out here, smiling and talking to us, I think it just reassured everyone that he’s going to be ok.”

The expectations for Wake this season were somewhere between being close to a repeat of last season and winning the ACC Atlantic Division. Clawson was asked if his most experienced quarterback changes the approach for the last three weeks of prep before the season opener. “It impacts our expectations in no single way,” he responded. “Not at all. I don’t expect our football team to be any less successful because of this.”

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