There’s a part of Nyheim Hines that wanted to make the easy choice and stay at N.C. State for another football season.
Then the All-ACC running back from Garner started to consider his own dreams, the shelf-life of an NFL running back and how much even an off-the-charts statistical senior season would help his NFL stock.
So Hines has decided to go for it now and enter the NFL draft. He announced his decision on Friday.
“I think this is the best decision for me and my body,” Hines said. “I’m trying to get the most out of my career that I can.”
As a junior, Hines led the ACC in all-purpose yards (1,868) this past season and ran for 1,112 yards with 12 touchdowns in 11 full games.
He did miss parts of two games with an ankle injury and the second half of a third game while being evaluated for a concussion.
Hines helped the Wolfpack finish with a 9-4 record and a No. 23 national ranking. There was a correlation between his absence, due to injury, and losses to Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest.
After he led the Wolfpack to a 33-21 win over North Carolina in the regular-season finale, Hines submitted his name to the NFL advisory board for draft feedback.
He received a third- to fourth-round grade from the league. After a three-touchdown performance in the Wolfpack’s Sun Bowl win on Dec. 29, Hines started to lean more towards going pro.
And this was the main question he debated with his family: At his size, he’s listed at 5-9 and 197 pounds, and with the type of season he turned in, how much more could his stock really improve?
“I’m not going to get any taller” Hines said.
Hines’ father, Darren, said the combination of his son’s size and position – there is more of a risk in getting injured at running back – led the family to the choice of coming out now.
Hines and Stanford star running back Bryce Love, who is from Wake Forest, are good friends, as are their families. Darren Hines used Love as an example of how a player’s stock can stagnate.
“We felt like even if he came back, we didn’t feel like his stock would go up more because of his size,” Darren Hines said. “Look at Bryce, he ran for 2,000-plus yards and he’s still being projected to go in the second round.”
Love, who is listed at 5-10 and 196 pounds, is a speed back in the same mold as Hines. Love ran for 2,118 yards last season for the Cardinal and was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting.
An All-American relay sprinter in track, Hines is hopeful that he can impress NFL teams with his speed in pre-draft workouts.
“I’m confident I will test well, which will help,” Hines said.
Hines’ versatility on special teams – he returns kickoff and punts and was a standout on punt coverage – should also help.
We felt like even if he came back, we didn’t feel like his stock would go up more because of his size.
Darren Hines, Nyheim Hines’ father
He had 92-yard punt return for a touchdown in his best performance of the season in a 35-17 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 14.
He also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the bowl win over Vanderbilt in 2016 and a 100-yard return for a score against Clemson in 2015.
Hines also played extensively at receiver in his first two seasons. He had 43 catches for 525 yards in 2016, when he played primarily receiver.
He was moved to running back this season with the graduation of Matt Dayes. Hines followed up Dayes’ 1,000-yard season with one of his own, after N.C. State had gone 14 years without one.
Leaving the Triangle
But there is a downside to leaving, too. Hines was on track to finish his degree in information technology next year. He plans on coming back to finish his degree.
And this will be the first time Hines leaves the Triangle. He grew up in Raleigh and was a prep football legend at Garner High, where he was recruited by Clemson, Ohio State and just about every other ACC and national power.
Hines’ twin sister, Nyah, was a big reason he stayed home and chose to go to N.C. State.
“Leaving my sister, that’s a big thing,” Hines said. “I’ve never really left home before but I want to chase my dream.
“The way I look at it, school and N.C. State will be always be here but my football career won’t and I’ve always dreamt of playing in the NFL.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio