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The opportunity came

Chaz Hine wasn’t quite sure of his value to the USF football program prior this summer.

As a walk-on in 2007, he was just hoping for an opportunity to show what he could do.

That chance came when USF coach Jim Leavitt offered Hine, a Newsome High product, a full football scholarship prior to this season.

It didn’t take long for him to show why he was offered, as Hine won the starting left guard spot in fall camp.

“I was ecstatic,” he said. “I wanted to be a starter, and I was able to accomplish that. That was really my goal coming into this year. As a walk-on, you have to be a starter or do something special to get a scholarship. I just want to get better every week now.”

Out of high school, Hine, a redshirt sophomore, was without a Division I football scholarship. The first-team All County and second-team All State performer had a few Division I-AA offers, but they were all out of state.

“I’m kind of big on family, so I wanted to stay as close to my family as possible,” Hine said. “If I would’ve gone to another state, I would’ve been homesick. Not to mention (USF) was Division I college football.”

Why not take a chance?

Hine was accepted to the USF walk-on program in 2007. He redshirted his first season and worked with the scout team. In 2008, Hine continued to improve, mostly working with the offensive linemen and appearing in seven games.

USF’s offensive line lost four starters in the offseason, and that’s when Hine’s chance came.

“He just waited for the right opportunity,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “An opportunity presented itself. We lost four seniors last year and all of a sudden he gets a shot to come in and perform. He wasn’t going to let anyone take it.”

Hine has started seven and played in all eight games this year at left guard. Leavitt has called him USF’s most reliable offensive lineman, two years after not even holding a Division I scholarship offer.

“With this program, it’s hard to make the team as a walk-on and to end up being a starter,” said senior defensive end George Selvie, who works against the offensive line in practice. “(Coach) Jim (Leavitt) is always hard on walk-ons and (Hine) has made it through. That’s a great accomplishment. It says a lot for him as a football player and person.”

Hine, a member of the National Honor Society in high school, said his experiences off the field, specifically in the classroom, give him the motivation he needs on the field.

Now a starter, Hine said it’s been a beneficial challenge to balance school and football.

“You try and focus on practice and the games a lot more,” he said. “You want to be perfect. You don’t want to miss blocks or assignments or anything. You keep trying to focus more on football.”

The focus has helped out and improved his game in the past year, Leavitt said.

“His perseverance, how hard he works, his focus,” Leavitt said. “I just appreciate people like that. He plays hard every snap. He doesn’t make mistakes. He has good grades. It means a great deal to him. … He’s the best offensive lineman we’ve had this year.”

Hine said he now knows his value to the USF football program.

“It means a lot,” Hine said. “As a walk-on, you sometimes question how much you mean to a program because you know you weren’t offered a scholarship in the beginning. You work really hard and become a better football player.