WESTFIELD, Ind. – Scottie Montgomery's believed Nyheim Hines could do this for a decade.
That's why he was the first person to offer Hines, then a dynamic playmaker at Garner Magnet High School, a scholarship.
Montgomery was Duke's offensive coordinator when he began recruiting Hines. This was Hines' sophomore year; he hoped to not only get Hines to Duke, but the school wanted to get Hines' track star twin sister, Nyah, there as well.
"He's always been the guy that worked," Montgomery said. "Then they were talking about his size, he's not big enough — the first game I ever went to he had five touchdowns.
"… But what I noticed the most about him was that every time he scored, he would immediately take his eyes back to his family. Whether it was his sister, his dad, his mom, I knew how important family was to him."
Montgomery was sold on Hines' talent, work ethic, values and family. It didn't wind up working out – Hines chose North Carolina State from a long list of offers that included, according to Rivals, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State, among other schools. But Hines always trusted Montgomery's plan for him.
"This is when he just left Pittsburgh too, so he was with Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, all those great guys," Hines said (Montgomery was the Steelers' wide receivers coach from 2010-2012). That's kind of what I saw myself back then what I'm doing now — running the ball and receiving the ball. Scottie, I believed that Scottie would help me master both."
It may not be in college, but on the practice fields of Grand Park in Westfield – Montgomery and Hines are living out the vision they had a decade ago.
Montgomery is in his second year as the Colts' running backs coach and, along with wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne, is working closely with Hines to hone the all-around skills of one of the team's most explosive players. The Colts have focused for months on how to best involve Hines in the offense, whether it's in the backfield, from the slot, on the field at the same time with All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor, etc.
"For years we've watched him play and really respected his game because he does do so many things," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who's had conversations with the Colts' offensive coaching staff about how Hines stresses defenses, said. "And it's not like he does a lot of things average — he does everything they ask him to do at a really high level."
From the slot, Hines' short-area quickness and straight-line speed are sort of a pick-your-poison combination for opposing defenders. If you give him space, Hines can accelerate out of his break and generate several yards of separation – which feels good for quarterbacks, Montgomery said, because "usually open in this league is about four inches."
If you play tighter coverage on Hines – well, we're talking about a track guy here.
"I don't think there are many people that line up in front of me that are going to beat me in a straight-line race," Hines said. "So if they get too close, I feel like I can run by them. And that doesn't matter if it's a DB, linebacker or anything, I feel like I'm one of the fastest guys on the field every time I'm out there."
The mental stress Hines puts on a defense before the snap is significant – and when he's on the field with Taylor, it forces a defense to declare what they want to play between the pass or the run. Play the pass, and Taylor can get to the second level and make a defensive back miss on his way to the end zone. Play the run, and Hines could get matched up in the slot against a linebacker.
"All these things that he's bringing to the table are just mental before we even get the ball snapped," Montgomery said. "I'm glad I don't have to defend him."
And that's all before Hines gets the ball in his hands. Hines can turn a quick, in-rhythm five-yard out route into a 10-yard gain and a first down, but was quick to interject: "Hopefully five will turn into 50 this year."
"I think with all the space, that's what I get paid to do, that's why I'm here," Hines said. "Obviously I can run the ball, I can do a lot of things, but I make my money making people miss in space and getting in space."
Hines certainly can run the ball, too – he averaged a career high 4.9 yards per carry in 2021 and wants to increase that to at least five yards per attempt this season. He can execute all the run concepts the Colts lean on and is hardly just a "gadget guy," a descriptor at which he bristles.
"I take pride in just making plays," Hines said. "I feel like with a lot of players, they have a certain job description — where my job description, it could be literally anything. It could be inside zone, a deep ball, so I try to execute to the best of my ability."
That's the vision Montgomery had for Hines years ago, when Hines was a quick, speedy high school sophomore. Montgomery may not landed Hines at Duke, but now the pair are working together to make the biggest impact on football's biggest stage.
"It's kind of funny," Hines said, "that what we talked about 10 years ago is now coming to fruition."