Malik Hartford was doing homework in his bedroom when the West Virginia coaching staff asked him to call them. After a call with WVU defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley, Hartford officially had an offer from the Mountaineers. He felt normal after the call, he told WVSN, and it wasn’t until the next day that it really sank in.
“It always takes me a second to process my offers because they don’t seem real,” Hartford said. “They are the next step to making it to my dream, the NFL.”
Hartford, a 2023 three-star athlete from Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio, has been a fast-rising recruit in the past few weeks. Since the beginning of September, he’s picked up offers from Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (Oh.), Vanderbilt, Toledo, Illinois and WVU.
While it’s early in his relationship with WVU, it’s been a good start for Hartford and the Mountaineers’ staff. He just wants to see it for himself.
“The coaches watched my film and began to be in contact with me,” Hartford said. “[associate director of scouting Trey] Neyer was really the main one checking up on me and trying to get me to games and so on. Overall, they seem like a great school. It will be hard to tell until I can go there and see it all for myself.”
Hartford is planning on making it out to Morgantown for a game this season, he just isn’t sure of the exact date quite yet. He’s hopeful in getting to get a sense of the culture around WVU and meet up with the coaching staff in person. Of course, he wants to see the campus and facilities, too — and where he’d be sleeping.
With eight offers already and more surely on the way, Hartford said it’s been a fun process getting to see so many schools and meet so many coaches so far. However, he said at the of the day he’s got to make a choice, and he just hopes it’s the right one.
WVU has gotten in relatively early with Hartford, and with the defense in place, he said the Mountaineers are definitely a consideration.
“I like the way they play defense, everything compliments each other,” Hartford. “As far as the coaches, our relationships are in their infancy but will continue to get stronger.”
According to 247Sports, Hartford is the 60th-ranked athlete in the class of 2023, and the 17th-ranked recruit from Ohio. Rivals hasn’t rated him yet, but he’s only a junior at Lakota West. So far through six games of his junior season, he’s done just about everything for the Firebirds.
He plays across the field for the Firebirds, playing as a wide receiver, a safety and even contributing on special teams. He’s gained the most attention for his play at safety though. With excellent pursuit and speed in a 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame, he’s a missile in the secondary. He’s racked up 24 tackles (17 solo) and an interception in six games.
However, he’s not happy to sit back and let the game come to him. Hartford wants to take the next step and get even better.
“My work ethic, I know there’s always room to get better and I’m willing to take that step,” Hartford said. “As well as understanding the game. There are always players out there that are physically more gifted and more athletic, but mentally, the game just comes to me.
Junior Season Weeks 1-6 https://t.co/D8uXaVjM5w
— Malik Hartford🤴🏽 (@MalikHartford) September 25, 2021
Hartford has already had a busy fall schedule, outside of playing for Lakota West. He’s been to Cincinnati, Miami and Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois this season for games. He’ll be at Cincinnati-UCF this week.
He still has plans for Ohio State-Penn State in a month and Purdue, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Louisville in November.