Chaz Hine walked on at USF in 2007, not knowing whether he would ever play in a game much less start one. Recruiters told him he had slow feet, so scholarship offers from FBS schools just never came.
He wanted to stay close to home and chose the Bulls. Hine made sure to work harder than everyone else -- to be clean, crisp and precise during practice in order to make a big impression on his coaches. Former coach Jim Leavitt and his staff noticed, Hine was put on scholarship in 2009 and is about to go into his third year as a starter.
If you think that is remarkable, wait until you hear him sing. His boomingly beautiful operatic voice has caught teammates and professors off guard time and again. Coach Skip Holtz said his jaw dropped the first time he heard Hine sing. One of his professors said, "He knocked my socks off."
If you think that is remarkable, wait until you hear about everything else that makes him so special. His work ethic has served him incredibly well throughout his life. Hine helped form the Student Coalition Against Homelessness and Poverty at USF, a group dedicated to informing students about the realities of homelessness and poverty in the Tampa Bay area. He was voted “Most Remarkable” out of the USF College of Business’ 25 Under 25 -- a group of the top 25 undergraduate students.
Hine graduated with a 3.86 GPA and made the Dean's List at the College of Business four times. He is the only player in the USF Honors College, and is currently taking graduate-level courses while he decides on grad school.
It's easy to see why he is the school's nominee for the AFCA Good Works Team, which honors top student-athletes for their community service work.
"He so completely fits the description of a Renaissance Man," said Dr. Alan Balfour, chair of the Department of Management & Organization at USF. "Anybody who is a Division I football player, a starter, who’s also a grad of the honors college of a fully accredited institution would catch the attention of any professor. His potential is certainly extraordinary. He’s got enough intelligence to be able to accomplish anything that he needs to do."
The big question, of course, is how does he do so much, when a good chunk of his time is dedicated to football practices, meetings, workout sessions and film study. "This might sound black and white, but it is just a lot of prioritizing," Hine said in a phone interview. "That is what I have learned since high school, being an athlete and trying to juggle everything."
Work ethic plays a big role in what allows him to be successful. But Hine is also a people person, a guy so likeable he can move in disparate circles. In high school, he moved easily among the different stereotypical cliques you would find walking down any hallway -- he was friends with the jocks; he was friends with the kids in drama; he was friends with the smart kids, too. That allowed him to be named Homecoming King his senior year.
It is that gregariousness that translates into his ability to step onto a stage with the ease of a seasoned actor. He has held lead roles in Pirates of Penzance, Hello Dolly, Les Miserables, Grease and South Pacific. He has gotten up in front of teammates to sing. The first time he did it for Holtz, he sang, "That's Amore." He did it at a business school function, too, belting out "The Marriage of Figaro" in his operatic voice.
"I’ve loved every minute of singing in those situations," Hine said. "I’ve come to really enjoy people that enjoy me. When you have a crowd listening to you and cheering you on, it’s invigorating and empowering and quite a rewarding experience."
Hine gets more nervous before a game than before he takes the stage, but performing in front of crowds has served him well. So has the shock value that comes along with being a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman who can belt out show tunes with the best of them. "I want to break the stereotypical thoughts everyone has of football players," Hine said.
He has more than done that, whether it is with his team or fellow students.
"His teammates absolutely love him," USF offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler said. "The guy has proven he’ll play with pain. He is one of the hardest workers in the offseason program we have, an honors student in the business school. The other players, they see that and it gains a lot of respect. Everything he attempts he’s proven to be successful at. His drive to be good is something you'd like to capture in a bottle and pass around."
Balfour supplied one final anecdote. At a ceremony recognizing the top 25 students in the business school, each student was asked what they think he or she will be doing 15 years from now. Hine considered the question for a moment. Then said, "I would like to have a wonderful family."
He was the only one who answered that way.