AJ Hines, or as he was known in high school “Baby Gurley” (after former Georgia RB Todd Gurley) is only one year into college and is already looking like one of the best prospects to come out of the FCS in recent years.
Initially recruited by the Richmond Spiders, but due to failing to reach the needed score on a standardized test, despite his best efforts, Hines was ruled ineligible for a semester. The disappointment did not last long for Hines, as Duquesne soon offered him a scholarship. There was a strong reasoning for Duquesne’s offer as their former running back, Rafiq Douglas abruptly left the team during the offseason, leaving them with a need to fill. They contacted AJ who had to choose between doing a semester of prep school with the hopes of making it to Richmond or playing at Duquesne. Ultimately he decided that he’d rather play immediately than sit out a semester, so he ended up with the Dukes.
In his first season at the Dukes, Hines ran for a freshman record 1,291 yards on just 242 carries.
Averaging 5.3 yards per carry, finding the end zone 13 times. Hines’ yardage made up 27% of Duquesne’s overall yardage. As a result of his efforts, he led Duquesne to and 8-3 record and a share of the NEC title.
At 5”11 and 220lb, Hines may not be the biggest running back you will see, but he certainly isn’t the smallest. He has quick feet, is extremely patient and can easily pick holes in the defensive line to gain extra yardage. Hines does share similar traits to Doug Martin, only maybe a bit less pacey. One thing that stood out to me on looking through his videotape is just how elusive he is. Hines manages to slip by oncoming defenders almost as if they weren’t there. In his freshman season, he had 242 carries, 141 more than the second string running back, showing he is happy to be used as a workhorse back.
One factor that I feel is massively underrated when it comes to NFL Draft scouting is the player’s psyche. From every interview I have seen from Hines, he comes across as incredibly humble, highly motivated and up for a challenge. As the great Terry Bradshaw once said, “When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.”
A positive attitude should never be overlooked, if I have a choice between a talented player with a great positive attitude and a slightly better player who just doesn’t care, I know who I am picking.
It’s difficult to use something in both the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ section, but I would say his patience can be a negative at times.
Over the last couple of seasons, we have all got sick of hearing commentators spewing about how patient Le’Veon Bell is. We get it; he takes his time! Because of Bell, a lot of younger running backs are now attempting to emulate this ‘patient’ style, but without the talent level of Bell, it’s not nearly as effective for them. 43 of Hines’ 242 carries ended up being stopped for a loss. Granted, these are not always going to be the running backs fault, but it is still a slightly concerning amount.
Another issue is that talent coming out of the FCS can often be overlooked. If AJ follows up his monster freshman season and improves it, when it comes to his senior year, it would be hard to look past him being drafted in the NFL.
This year, AJ Hines became the third running back to win the Jerry Rice Award. But now he is setting his sights on even better, the Walter Payton Award (The FCS equivalent to the Heisman Trophy). If Hines was to achieve this, he should be on your radar for any Devy fantasy teams you have. He is highly talented, very underrated, and has a big future ahead of him.
I was able to catch up with AJ and ask him a few questions about his career.
So AJ, how old were you when you started playing Football?
“I started playing flag football when I was five years old, and it just went from there.”
Have you played any other positions or have you always been a Running Back?
“I used to play running back and Linebacker.”
What aspects of your game do you think help you succeed the most?
“I’m a power back, and I have got a little bit of speed on me, so I use that combination, and I don’t get tired. I am a lot stronger than my opponents when they get tired so that helps with my game.”
Do you study any NFL players and try to incorporate their game into yours?
“A few. I studied Le’Veon Bell this season because of his patience and that helped me in a few games. Our offense likes our running backs to be patient so we watch film on Le’Veon to see how he does it.”
On a similar note, who would you say your biggest inspiration is in the game?
“Um, sheesh. I would say Adrian Peterson. I grew up watching him when he played at Oklahoma, I loved how he ran it with passion and aggressiveness. When he is on the field he makes sure he is the best player on the field.”
This year you had a great year and won the Jerry Rice Award. In that weekend you met Jerry himself and also Dak Prescott, what was that like for you?
“It was a great experience. I didn’t know I was going to meet Dak. My head coach is friends with the PR of the Dallas Cowboys, and they showed us around. Dak had just had an interview with Jerry Rice so he was there and it was a great experience. He congratulated me for my award, then when I met Jerry [Rice] later in the day, he was just a big inspiration on my life. That night he taught me a lot.
So what would you say the highlight of the weekend was for you?
“Best part was when I first met Jerry. He was a down to earth guy, he took me under his wings and gave me a few pointers for my interviews and what I should do in front of the camera. He was a big inspiration on my life and I am glad I met him.”
Sounds incredible. So, if you could play alongside any former players, who would it be?
“[Laughs] It would definitely be Jerry Rice. His work ethic just spreads around the whole team and he just made everybody around him better.”
Thanks AJ, and good luck with the rest of your career.
“Yes Sir, thank you.”
Look out for more articles highlighting the talent that is currently at FCS level. Let us know your thoughts/questions in the comments section below. Let us know your thoughts/questions in the comments section below.
Click here to watch his highlights on Hudl.