By Kevin Wilson
Angelo State could have had Steven Hinson as its starting quarterback for this Saturday’s game. The Eastern New Mexico junior wouldn’t mind showing them that it should have.
Hinson, in his first year as the Greyhound starting quarterback, has made up what he lacks in size with scary speed and a big heart. He has his team off to a 4-1 start coming into Saturday’s homecoming matchup with ASU, one of a few teams to turn him down because of his size.
“People saw my size and they didn’t want to take a chance,” said Hinson, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound speedster who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. “It would be nice just to show them that they messed up.”
A three-year starting quarterback at Class 2A Olney, Texas, Hinson has made a solid transition to college football. Through ENMU’s first five games with Hinson at the helm, he has thrown for 504 yards and four touchdowns, with 293 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
After reaching the state semifinals with Olney in 2000, Hinson figured he’d be playing college football. Just where that would be, he didn’t know.
“I knew I could play,” Hinson said, “I just needed someone to give me a chance.”
That chance was available at several schools, just not at quarterback. Hinson looked at places like Abilene Christian and ASU after a scholarship opportunity at Rice didn’t come through (“It was between me and this other guy and he got it,” Hinson said).
In the end, those schools only wanted to recruit Hinson as a defensive back. That wasn’t a problem for the Greyhound coaches.
When asked if Hinson’s size was ever an issue, Greyhound offensive coordinator Mike Howard said, “No,” with a laugh, a laugh likely conditioned from hearing that same question over and over again.
“He’s a playmaker,” Howard said.
Hinson came to ENMU as a walk-on in 2001 and quickly earned a spot on special teams, where his speed and elusiveness made him a dangerous kick punt returner.
“It was an indication that he could make plays on the Lone Star (Conference) level,” Howard said.
When the 2003 season came around, Hinson had earned the quarterback spot. He was pulled off of return duties and put in charge of the Greyhound option offense.
Hinson admits that it’s a good tradeoff, but he wouldn’t mind going back to returns if the opportunity arose.
“I don’t care, I like to do both,” Hinson said. “Kickoff returns are fun. You get out there to make things happen.”
For now, he’s just making things happen with the offense. Howard said a lot of Hinson’s success can be contributed to not trying to do too much.
“You don’t have to do something spectacular,” Howard said. “You just have to stay within the scheme.”
Hinson thinks a big part of playing quarterback is keeping things in the right perspective. He said that one of the most difficult, and revealing, times is when you come off the field after making a mistake and you have to face your coach.
“In 2A, you can play both ways and just blow (anger) off on defense,” Hinson said. “Here, you have to blow it off off of the field.”
Hinson admits that he’s still learning, and that’s what the coaches expect from a player not even halfway into his first season as a starter. Howard thinks that the biggest difference between Hinson and Heath Ridenour isn’t height or heart — it’s just experience.
“He’s played five games,” Howard stressed. “At this time a year ago, Heath Ridenour had started 18 games. As Steven gains more experience, he’s going to get better.
“We think he’s on the way up.”