One of the most well-known plays in Hawkeye history occurred in Columbus, Ohio on November 14th, 1987. Iowa, trailing 27-22, had 4th-and-23 at the Buckeye 29. Most Hawkeye fans of a certain age can tell you where they were when that play happened. Chuck Hartlieb remembers (mostly) where he was.
He was under center.
“That drive was a sloppy, difficult drive for us,” he said. “I remember I was slightly concussed and I needed stitches after the game. We were all beaten up.
“When I came up to the line of scrimmage for that play I thought they had (Marv Cook) covered. I felt like the only way I could make it work would be to try to throw the ball behind Marv and make him make a cut off man-to-man coverage.”
Cook made the catch at the nine-yard line, cut inside and dove to the goal line as he was tackled by two Ohio State defenders. In 2017, we’d be treated to five minutes of booth review. In 1987, the referee’s decision was final.
“It happened so quickly, the ref threw his hands up and it was over,” Hartlieb said. “I remember the offensive linemen yelling at me because they couldn’t hear me because it was so loud. Then I was running downfield and I could hear a pin drop.
“I’ve never felt something that went from 100 decibels to 0 in a matter of seconds, it was hilarious. All you heard was a small section of Iowa fans, and 100,000 other people stone silent. It was a blast and something I’ll never forget.”
It was the top moment in a great Hawkeye career for the Illinois native. Coming out of high school, Hartlieb had offers from dozens of programs, but the Hawks found a way to stand out.
“Football programs at that level all have good facilities, great stadiums and great academic environment,” he said. “Two things stood out, the coaching staff and the people of Iowa City just struck a chord with me during my visit. I felt like it was a unique place with a lot of pride and a lot of character. I knew Iowa City was the right fit for me.”
In his first three years on campus, he’d sit and watch Iowa legend Chuck Long lead the Hawkeyes, including a win over #2 Michigan, and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. Hartlieb said he spent those years learning about the game at the Big Ten level.
“(It was about) learning the game between the ears,” he said. “It wasn’t fundamentals or arm strength or using your speed, it was making great decisions, understanding what we’re trying to accomplish versus the team we’re going up against.
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“Both Bill Snyder and Chuck Long had a tremendous influence on me from an execution standpoint. People underestimate the importance of how a quarterback processes things second-by-second, play-by-play. That was the biggest impact that those two had on me; how to make great decisions and how to execute properly during the course of a game.”
Hartlieb would be named First Team All-Big Ten in his first year as a starter, 1987. He would lead the Hawkeyes to a 9-3 record including a win in the Holiday Bowl against Wyoming. It was yet another season in what some consider the best series of seasons in Hawkeye history.
“We knew we were around a bunch of great leaders; Snyder, Alvarez, McCarney, Ferentz, Elliot, we all knew we had great position coaches, they were recruiting very well,” he said. “Everything was headed in the right direction. We certainly found we had the right foundation and it wasn’t going to be short-term success, it was definitely going to be a long-term success.”
During Hartlieb’s ’88 senior season, the Hawkeyes only managed a record of 6-4-3, never able to string together two consecutive wins. Several of those games came down to injuries and special teams failing to execute.
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“It reminds you that football is a game where a lot of different things can happen,” he said. “We had only two of the same offensive starters for the whole season. Greg Divis and I were the only two that started every game. We were beset by injuries and really struggled in the kicking game.
“I think we were a 9-3, 10-2 team without a doubt, but it was one of those years where no breaks would go our way, and we suffered because of it.”
After graduation, Hartlieb spent one year in Houston with the Oilers, but it became apparent, despite being a two-time All-Big Ten First Team quarterback, the NFL wasn’t his long-term plan.
“If I were a 6-3, 6-4 quarterback I would have stuck it out and lasted several more years, but I was kind of undersized for the position, at barely 6-1,” he said. “I had the head and arm for it, but my size wasn’t there.
“I didn’t want to be one of those guys to just hang on year after year. I wanted the next challenge in life, and moved on from the game.”
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Hartlieb, putting to use his degree in finance, has spent his career in investments and wealth management, currently as the senior vice president at UBS Financial Services in Des Moines.
For the past three years, Chuck has organized a career fair, uniting former Hawkeyes with current athletes, in hopes of educating them on post-athletics opportunities.
“I became aware that some other programs in the country were doing some special events connecting football lettermen to the current set of players, with the focus being trying to show paths to success once the game of football was over for the college student-athlete,” he said. “It wasn’t my original idea, but I did some research, talked to some other people.
“We try to bring 25-30 alumni back to the team during the summer time from different areas of interest. Real estate, to accounting, to sales, to lawyers. We just try to show them that you can use football as a platform to have even more success after the game is over.”
It’s not about finding players jobs, it’s about giving players a purpose after football, it’s about finding ways to translate the skills and dedication of college athletics to the working world.
“They’re working 40+ hours a week starting at age 18, they’ve got tremendous amounts of pressure and responsibility, and they never get to take a day off,” he said. “If that’s not a platform to do well in life after football, I don’t know what is. Hopefully, these annual sessions give them a glimpse of how to be winners, not just in Iowa City, but the rest of their lives.
“We’re not just trying to get them jobs, we’re trying to show them the importance of the interview, the importance of networking, building the right resume, those things that don’t necessarily guarantee a job, but create a platform for them to find what they want to do, in the area they’re going to be in.”