INDIANAPOLIS — We’ve heard about the record-setting paces of both Andrew Luck and Darius Leonard.
But another member of the Indianapolis Colts, at the pace he’s currently on, could own an NFL record by the time the season is over.
Running back Nyheim Hines has 29 receptions through five games — or an average of just fewer than six grabs per contest.
That average, spread out over the course of a 16-game schedule, would give him more than 92 receptions on the year, which would top Reggie Bush’s NFL single-season record for receptions by a rookie running back, which is 88 set back in 2006.
That Hines is excelling as a pass catcher is no surprise to he Colts, who envisioned this exact kind of role for the 5-foot-9, 198-pound Garner, N.C., product coming out of North Carolina State.
Hines actually started his college career as a wide receiver before moving over to more of a full-time role as a running back — although catching the ball remained a major strength.
Named a finalist his senior year for the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the nation’s top all-purpose back, Hines would finish his career at N.C. State with 89 career receptions for 933 yards, as well as the third-most all-purpose yards (4,638) in school history.
After Hines clocked the fastest 40-yard dash time of any running back in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine (4.38 seconds), the Colts had seen enough, selecting him with the fourth pick in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Some teams even projected Hines to be just a wide receiver at the professional level, but the Colts, with an offensive-minded head coach in Frank Reich, envisioned a much larger role for him, and that has come to fruition so far through five games.
In five games played with two starts, Hines has 33 rushing attempts for 99 yards and a touchdown, while he has 29 receptions for 164 yards and two scores. Drawn out over a 16-game season, that amounts to about 106 carries for 317 yards and three rushing touchdowns, and 93 receptions for 525 yards and six receiving scores.
Hines’ breakout game came Week 4 against the Houston Texans, when he caught nine passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s my thing — catching passes,” Hines told Colts.com’s Caroline Cann after that game. “Obviously, running the ball, too, and protecting the quarterback, but I think I’m phenomenal at doing things like that, catching the ball. So hopefully I can just keep building on that.”
What’s notable is that Hines isn’t even the leading receiver among running backs in this year’s rookie class. Saquon Barkley — taken with the No. 2-overall pick by the New York Giants — has 40 receptions through six games, putting him on pace for more than 100 catches on the year.
The NFL record for most pass receptions in a rookie season, by the way? Anquan Boldin had 101 catches for the Arizona Cardinals back in 2003, followed by Terry Glenn (New England Patriots, 1996) and Bush’s 88 (New Orleans Saints, 2006).