INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines today spoke to local media members via video conference call. What did he have to say about this week's "powerful" team meetings focused on racial injustices, the opportunity to play with a fellow North Carolina State alum in Philip Rivers, comparisons to Darren Sproles and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» With grandparents who were actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Hines has appreciated this week's team meetings focused on discussing racial tension in the U.S.: Football has been secondary for the Colts in recent days, as head coach Frank Reich has turned virtual team meetings into opportunities for players and coaches to discuss the civil unrest being felt across the country.
Those team discussions, Hines said, have been "powerful."
"That is what I really got out of it, seeing despite all the bad things going on in the world – blacks, white, all sorts of ethnicities on the football team binding together as one, all of us saying we have each other's back," Hines said. "It was really moving and really great. I think a lot of great things were said and it was a very, very passionate meeting."
Hines said his grandmother marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, while his grandfather participated in the Greensboro Sit-Ins around that same time.
And now that these conversations are happening at the team level, Hines says he feels a responsibility, given that family history, to add his perspective whenever it's necessary — on top of his own experiences as a black man living in America.
"I think it is great to be talked about because between whites and blacks all over America, sometimes race is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about. Sometimes you want to make sure you say it the right way just to make sure you don't offend people," Hines said.
"I should really do a better job of leading because I've had family members that peacefully protested," Hines later added. "The looting and rioting that's going on hasn't been great. It's not great and that's not really what should be going on, but guys like me and other athletes who know things about it should lead protests and try to be more avid in the community."
» Hines watched on as a kid as Philip Rivers lead N.C. State's football team; now they're teammates: Rivers was a record-breaking quarterback for N.C. State from 2000-03; Hines at the time was growing up just down the road in Garner, N.C.
In fact, Hines was just 3 years old when Rivers played his first game for the Wolfpack.
In many ways, Hines' earliest memories of the game of football would've likely had Rivers as a central character. He would follow Rivers' lead and star at N.C. State himself from 2015-17.
Now Hines and Rivers are teammates after the Colts signed the free agent quarterback to a one-year deal back in March.
"I remember seeing him in the Nike (No.) 17," Hines said of Rivers at N.C. State. "Just seeing him lead that team, they had some great players and just seeing him win some games and I remember thinking, 'Dang, maybe soon I'll get to play there and help them win games too,' which, funny how life works, it kind of happened.
"Even looking at it, seeing he was in school from 2000-03, I was born in 1996 and started doing the math in my head and I was like, 'Wow, that guy has played a lot of football.' So whenever he talks I am definitely going to listen."
» Hines has heard the comparisons to Darren Sproles before, but now they come to life a little more with Sproles' former quarterback leading the Indy offense: Darren Sproles was always known as the undersized-yet-shifty running back who was a quarterback's best friend due to his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, make guys miss and turn a two-yard probability as a final read into an explosive 50-yard touchdown play.
In fact, it was with the San Diego Chargers where Sproles established himself as a star; in five years with the Chargers from 2005-10, Sproles not only had 249 rushing attempts for 1,154 yards and six touchdowns, but he caught 146 passes for 1,400 yards and another 11 scores.
And who was the Chargers' quarterback responsible for giving him the football? Rivers.
Hines had been compared to Sproles plenty coming out of college, and with Reich, Sproles' former offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2016-17, running the offense, he had already watched tons of film on Sproles and studied his role within Reich's offense.
But with Sproles' former quarterback now the starter in Indy, Hines — who has 137 rushing attempts for 513 yards and four scores and 107 receptions for 745 yards and another two touchdowns through the air in his first two NFL seasons — is excited for the opportunity to possibly showcase his talents a little more.
"They always do a great job of showing me them and what they did. Even just with Philip, talking to him about it, just asking him things about routes is something I'm looking forward to," Hines said. "I'm very excited. Been waiting two or three years, just trying to catch balls and hopefully I get a little bit more opportunity. I'm going to try and earn that.
"As a running back, we're the safety valve," Hines continued. "I've always thought I was the safety valve that can take a five-yard dump and turn it into 50. That's really what I've been planning on doing the last two years and hopefully show glimpses of it. I would love to do that this year and I think with Philip back there, there would be a great possibility of it."
Whether he's looking like Sproles or finding other ways to be electric with the football in his hands, however, Hines hopes to eventually carve out his own niche.
"The Sproles comparisons are cool, but I'm just going to try and be the best Nyheim Hines I can be," he said. "If I can be just half as good as Sproles I think I'll be OK."
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