STEUBENVILLE - Jeff Hartings had success in football at all levels.
He was a member of a the Division V state-winning football team St. Henry High School as a senior in 1990, when he compiled 23 sacks on the season and played in the Ohio North-South game.
Hartings was a first-team all-American at Penn State for former coach Joe Paterno in 1994 and 1995. He was also a two-time academic all-American.
He was the 23rd overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent in 2001. He was a two-time All-Pro player in 2001 and 2004, played in the Pro Bowl in 2004-05 and won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers.
But, all that doesn't compare with the decision he made years ago - the night he gave his life to Christ.
Hartings still cannot fathom all the doors God has opened for him since that night.
"Absolutely not," he said. "I don't think there is ever any way to know or understand how God is going to use you or has been planning to use you. Even now I do not understand completely what He wants me do or why.
"I just have learned I have to trust that everything will work out if I pray constantly about making decisions that will glorify him.
"When I decided to commit my life to Jesus Christ, I just knew I was at the point where I no longer wanted to be selfish and live for money and success in other people's mind. Both of those let me down and I had been introduced to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and I decided I was ready to live according to the purpose that God created me."
He is one of three former Steelers and one current player who will be on hand for the Franciscan University of Steubenville's Baron Club Dinner Saturday.
Also on the program are current defensive back Ike Taylor, former offensive lineman Craig Wolfley and linebacker Robin Cole.
Moderating the conversation will be Bob Pompeani, a sportscaster at Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV, who has covered the Steelers for more than 32 years. In 2013, he received his sixth Golden Quill award, this one for his Pittsburgh Steeler Exclusive reports. Joining him as co-moderator will be his daughter, Celina Pompeani of WTOV-TV.
Hartings, for one, looks forward to the opportunities to talk to people about his decision to live for God and his days as a member of the Steelers. He started 89 of 91 games while playing center for the Black and Gold.
He started 160 of 163 games in his 11 year NFL career.
"Being a Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steeler gives me opportunities to share my love of Christ with others just about anywhere in the country, but especially in the Pittsburgh area," he said. "Even while living in Salt Lake City, I was asked to speak at many Steelers events at churches or just sports events.
"Any time I speak I always want to take time to talk about the most significant event in my life - committing my life to Christ; and talk about my the most important relationship in my life - with God.
"I made a commitment to God the night I gave my life to Christ that any time I am asked to speak that I would always try to share the gospel. The event coming up is exciting because I will be at a great school, at a great event, with friends and former teammates.
"I love talking about football - and especially my faith."
Hartings and his wife, Rebecca, have eight children and he is one of 10 children.
"I have learned, the hard way, that my first and most important ministry is to love my wife the way Jesus Christ loved his 'wife' - the church, us. That is very difficult to understand and takes a lot of focus and effort because Satan would love nothing more than to destroy marriages. The root of most of our problems in America and the world is divorces and children born to unmarried women.
"Second, is my ministry as a father. I only realized and embraced this in the past few years. I am constantly reading and praying about being the best father I can be. I fail every day but wake up the next day and try to 'create a loving atmosphere' in my house and love my children who are really God's children. That is a big responsibility that I take very seriously and enjoy very much."
Hartings understands that through everything he has been through and will continue to do, there is nothing more important than how he and his wife raise their eight children.
"It has taken me a while and I need to constantly remind myself that there is nothing more important than my wife and my children and that means sacrificing a lot of things that I would enjoy but it also means that I have a lot of fun and that I am very blessed," he said. "I think that when you embrace the role as husband and father, then you really get to soak in the blessing that God intended for all spouses and parents to have but very few enjoy."
During Saturday's dinner, former university president the Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, will present the Baron Club Award to three Ohio Valley individuals for their career achievements and the pivotal roles they play in the lives of young people.
As quarterback and safety, Mike Orlando helped lead Steubenville Catholic Central High School to the 1993 Ohio Division V state football championship.He also played third base on the Crusaders' 1994 Division IV state baseball championship team.
Orlando now teaches business classes and is the head football coach at Archbishop McNicholas High School in Cincinnati. Last fall, Orlando led the McNicholas football team to the regional semi-finals.
As the longtime director of the Steubenville Striders, Patricia Herring, Class of 1975, has mentored and coached hundreds of youth who went on to state championships at the high school and college levels in track and field and long distance running. Herring's award comes on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Steubenville Striders.
Frank "Digger" Dawson co-founded the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame in East Liverpool, established a $400,000 scholarship foundation for the East Liverpool High School Alumni Association and writes about the history of Potter football, and is involved in his community in numerous ways.
The Baron Club Dinner supports the Franciscan University NCAA Division III athletic program.
The event will be held in the newly renovated Finnegan Fieldhouse, home of the Barons. Visitors will be able to see the results of the $5 million expansion project, which increased the size of the fieldhouse by 17,000 square feet and features a 5,100-square-foot fitness center complete with cardio equipment, free weights, an aerobics room double the size of the previous one, and a strength, performance, and flexibility training room.
Dinner reservations are $65. Sponsorships are available by calling (740) 284-5210 or visiting FranciscanAthletics.com/BaronClub.