WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Lakota West junior safety Malik Hartford announced Wednesday afternoon he has given a verbal commitment to play football at The Ohio State University.
"It's The Ohio State," Hartford said. "If you want to win championships that's where you are going to go."
Hartford, a four-star recruit, is rated the nation's No. 5 safety and Ohio's No. 2 player overall in the 2023 class, according to 247 Sports.
Hartford made the nationally-televised announcement on CBS Sports HQ. His other finalists included Cincinnati, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and West Virginia.
"He's a very physical player who covers an insane amount of ground in a short period of time," Lakota West coach Tom Bolden said in February. "His IQ matches his ability. He makes coverage checks and takes great pride on being a difference-maker on special teams."
Hartford, who is 6 feet 3 and 180 pounds, became the first reported Greater Cincinnati high school football player in February to commit to the 2023 All-American Bowl.
A Division I second team all-district selection in 2021, Hartford was a first team all-Greater Miami Conference selection.
He had 58 tackles (38 solo), two interceptions and recorded one sack this past season, according to the GMC statistics. He also played special teams and on offense for the Firebirds (11-2), a Division I regional finalist.
He had several significant scholarship offers including Ohio State, Alabama, Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Kentucky and West Virginia, among others.
Hartford joins Lakota West offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola (Ohio State signee) and cornerback Jyaire Brown (early enrollee) - both of whom were 2022 All-Americans - with his pledge to the Buckeyes.
Hartford is Greater Cincinnati's fourth 2023 high school football player to announce a verbal college football commitment.
The verbal commitments also include Winton Woods cornerback Cameron Calhoun (West Virginia), Fairfield defensive back Josiah Jackson (West Virginia) and Wyoming tailback CJ Hester (Western Michigan).
The NCAA's early Division I signing period starts Dec. 21.
Lakota West is scheduled to open the 2022 season against visiting St. Xavier in August.