TAMPA — Early in the week leading up to what many considered the biggest football game in the University of South Florida's history, Chaz Hine broke his nose at practice.
Hine, an offensive lineman for the Bulls and a 2007 Newsome High School graduate, had surgery a few days later and was on the field that Saturday (Sept. 26) when USF beat then-No. 18 Florida State.
After declining several scholarship offers from smaller schools, Hine opted to walk on at USF. Last year, he played sparingly as a reserve. But right before this season started, Bulls coach Jim Leavitt gave Hine a full scholarship to go along with the starting left guard position he earned.
Leavitt said Hine's perseverance, hard work and focus have helped him excel.
"I just appreciate people like that," Leavitt said. "(He's) not the most gifted athlete in the world, but he's been great. He's the best offensive lineman we've had this year."
Hine, a redshirt sophomore, started in seven of USF's first eight games. He still had significant playing time while battling the flu Oct. 30 to help lead the No. 24 Bulls to a 30-19 win against then-No. 21 West Virginia. The former Newsome Wolf sat down with the Times recently to talk about his recent success.
What did it mean to be put on a scholarship at the start of this season?
It was a surprise to me, and an incredibly happy surprise. I was fighting for a starting position coming into this year. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship. Now I'm starting, and my goals are coming to fruition here. When I was a walk-on, sometimes I would wonder, "How much do I really mean to this university, and how valuable am I to the team?"
Other than getting more playing time, what's been the biggest difference as a starter?
It's a bit more stressful, for sure. Last year, I knew I wasn't going to be playing much. I always had to be ready because I was a second-team guy. It's a lot more stressful now because I know that as soon as we receive the ball I'm going to be the guy going out. Last year, I was pretty much a spectator.
Was it a big risk to come to USF and hope to eventually be put on scholarship?
The risk wasn't so big because I was fortunate enough to be a good student in high school, so I had a Bright Futures Scholarship and a couple other academic scholarships. I wanted to get that (football) scholarship and play here.
What's it been like playing with and protecting quarterback B.J. Daniels, who, like you, is a first-year starter?
B.J.'s a good leader. I'm really impressed with him. Ever since the Florida State game, he hasn't missed a beat.
Speaking of that game, Florida State is a school that a lot of local kids look at with hopes to play there. How big was it for USF to go to Tallahassee and beat the Seminoles?
It was huge. When you're a player in Florida, you look at schools like Florida, Florida State and Miami, and they're almost legendary in your eyes because they've won so many championships and had so many good players go to the NFL. When you're able to go to a school like that and win, it's pretty special.
You've played in some prime-time games and faced four ranked teams (FSU, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia) this season. How has it been playing in the spotlight?
It's been enjoyable. My relatives have been able to watch me on TV, and I'm happy that they have that opportunity. It's also great to be able to play against good teams.
What's this we've heard about you being a singer?
It's one of my hobbies. I've been singing since I was in fifth grade. My mom made me join choir, and I took voice lessons in high school. Both bowl weeks (at USF), we had talent competitions and I sang some opera. The players enjoy it, and it's something I enjoy, trying to entertain the guys.