By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Chaz Hine wanted to not be just good, but great in the classroom when he was a child.
Hine is by no means a child anymore at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, but the drive is definitely still there. When he isn't pushing defenders back as an offensive lineman for USF, Hine has used a tireless approach to become a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. The prestigious honor is given each year to just 16 individuals who receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and now Hine stands tall as a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.
Hine and his fiancée Molly are in New York City with the rest of the NFF class to see who will win the award Tuesday night. The chosen one will receive a 25-pound bronzed trophy that is part of a total postgraduate scholarship award valued at $25,000.
"I am so proud to be in a position I am in to represent the university, this football team and the kind of young men we have on this team," Hine said. "I'll hopefully be a role model for younger kids to see that academics are very important. In America we value academics and sports, and we can do both successfully."
Hine has set quite an example on both platforms.
He's been a three-year starter with the Bulls during a period of five years. Hine moved from guard to center this season and helped pave the way for USF to rush for 2,198 yards.
In the classroom, Hine graduated Magna Cum Laude from the USF Honors College with a degree in business management last May after being named "Most Remarkable" out of the USF College of Business' 25 Under 25. The two-time Big East All-Academic member is currently pursuing his MBA.
"My parents always wanted me to have strong academics and I think competitively speaking I wanted to have the highest grades in the class since I was a young child," he said. "It's really just values my parents instilled in me as a boy."
A MAN WITH MANY PRIORITIES
Hine said prioritizing has been vital for achieving tasks on his huge plate. He's involved in so many groups off the field to cause someone to think that he needs a secretary to keep track of all his engagements.
He was a founding member of the Student Coalition Against Homelessness and Poverty at USF. The organization originated from USF Honors College students, and it aims to educate people about the current situation while giving them knowledge of how they can assist families in need.
Hine jumped on the opportunity because it all stems back to his family values and his strong relationship with God.
"I'm just trying to respect God and his creation, and understand that homelessness and poverty aren't limited to people who are on drugs or lazy, especially in the current economic situation," he said.
A dedication to his faith has opened the door for many other opportunities to be active around campus and the community. Hine also takes part in a student-led campus ministry at USF called Disciples for Life.
"I'm just trying to obey my purpose," he said. "I believe there is a purpose for my life and I'm trying to fulfill that purpose that God has given me."
That involves using his many talents for good and Hine has been busy doing just that. He's made trips to Shriner's Hospital for Children and has used his deep, operatic voice in many places. Hine has been the male lead in school musicals like "Les Miserables," Hello, Dolly" and "Grease."
What he's really proud of is the fact that he's been able to sing at Bell Shoals Church of Christ in Brandon, where he performs once a month during the offseasons.
"I had the opportunity to lead a congregation singing to God. I thought that was awesome," he said.
All of those projects and faith-based missions wouldn't have been able to be accomplished if it wasn't for Hine's steady focus on what needs to be done and when.
"I've been able to prioritize my tasks chronologically and really focus on what needs to be done on a first come, first serve basis," he said.
A HUMBLE GIANT
Being a star in the classroom, the community and on the football field could get to a person's head.
Hine is a big exception and others have noticed.
Dr. Sally Riggs Fuller, an associate professor at USF, has taught Hine in both undergraduate and MBA classes and marvels at his ability to stay grounded despite being "one of the smartest students" she's had.
"If anybody had enough that they could be kind of conceited, he does, but I don't think there is a conceited bone in his body," she said. "He is just a good person."
Hine is very good with words as well.
He had to complete a scholarly based senior thesis paper on human resource management that provided an analysis using scientific evidence about making managerial decisions. The body of the paper was 20 pages alone and Hine was able to complete the project in two days.
"I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished," he said.
So was Fuller, who said Hine was "probably the best writer that I've ever had as an undergrad," and "clearly one of the best writers" she's had in an MBA class.
Tell the average person that a football player like Hine made the Dean's List four times as an undergrad while mastering his studies and they perhaps woudn't believe it.
"One of the things that is most wonderful to me is he really defies stereotypes," Fuller said. "I love people who defy stereotypes."
Amazingly enough, Hine said it has been very easy to stay humble because of his core values and faith.
"Jesus talks a lot about humility. I try to model myself after Jesus as well as I can," he said.
Football has helped, too, with Hine playing at a position that doesn't exactly grab headlines.
"Offensive linemen do not get much credit for the most part. That might have something to do with it," he said.
USF football's Mr. Nice Guy shouldn't been taken for a softy on the field.
Hine stuck his hand in the ground and pushed his way to becoming a scholarship athlete in his third year with the Bulls. He started in all 12 of USF's games this season, all 13 last year and has 37 under his belt.
"His growth in a year has been fun to watch," offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said.
Hine said it's been fun moving from guard over to center, a position he hadn't played since he was a kid.
"I was pretty happy to touch the ball," he said with a laugh. "I haven't gotten to touch the ball ever. I played center I think for one quarter as a little league player probably when I was 12 years old and I haven't played since."
The accolades have come along as well.
Hine was voted a captain this season by his teammates after being named a preseason second-team All-Big East selection.
"Moving him to center was really a smart thing on our part," Shankweiler said.
Awards, status and wins are important, but Hine takes the greatest pride in another aspect of football that he'll always remember for his time as a Bull - fellowship.
"What I'm going to miss far and away that's more important to me is seeing these guys every day, being able to interact and joke with them," he said.
Hine has a strong suspicion that he'll being going through another freshman phase pretty soon.
He'll be training for the NFL next week and his position coach thinks his chances of continuing a football career are pretty good thanks to his hard work.
"I hear what (scouts are) asking and I think the general consensus was they saw a guy a year ago and said he's a good senior guy," Shankweiler said. "Now they're saying, 'You know what, we need to come back and take a look at this kid.' This kid has a chance to be in a camp. He's got a chance maybe to be a late-day draft pick, second-day draft pick. There have been a lot of real positive surprise reactions to what's happened."
Hine said he'll give his best shot at the NFL and he has other big plans for the immediate future. The Lithia, Fla., native will continue to take MBA classes at USF and hopes to complete an internship at some point.
"The next six months will be pretty interesting," he said.
Whether it's soon or later, Hine also has another thing to check off on his "bucket list."
"I have to go try and sing for one of the major network singing contests. I have to give it a shot," he said.
Looking back, Hine said it's been an amazing five years at USF, and he's truly thankful for the memorable ride on the field and in the classroom.
"In my mind I don't think so much that it's been me doing all this. I've been very fortunate to be in the right places in the right time," he said. "I've just tried to work very hard and I do everything in my power do get things done. Whatever else happens is in God's hands."