ST. GEORGE — Adam Hine is an atypical BYU football recruit when it comes to those who have traded football for Mormon missionary work and then returned to take on the game again.
Like most, his world is about to get rocked this weekend when he begins an acclimation period and two-a-days when the Cougars open fall camp.
The last Cougar player to return this late from mission service before camp was tight end Austin Holt a year ago.
Hine arrived home from Panama last Thursday about 3 a.m. where he'd toiled the past two years as an LDS missionary. Last week, his mother Emily traveled to Panama and served as his companion for his last two days in Colon, the second largest city in Panama.
It is tough for Emily to just get her son home after such a long time and then send him off to college.
"I guess Provo is not as far as Panama," said Emily this past weekend. "It's good to have him home. I've missed him."
Hine is a humble, unassuming athlete. He's just grateful for the chance to earn an education. He's been loyal to BYU ever since he committed just after turning 16 years old after his sophomore year at Snow Canyon High School.
He's kept his interest despite having little contact with BYU coaches before, during or after being recruited by the Cougars.
On his mission, Hine got a few letters from BYU's staff, all of them primarily quoting scriptures to help him keep his head in his church work, he said.
Hine will report to freshman orientation at the end of this week. He left for his mission right out of high school and hasn't really done anything in terms of rigorous training in 27 months.
"I ran a few times, but nothing hard like it is going to be," he said. "My body has always responded. I've just got to be patient."
Hine knows practically nobody on BYU's roster. He'll be playing amongst strangers. Even Lance Reynolds, the position coach who recruited him, has changed assignments and he'll be introduced to his replacement Joe DuPaix.
The only real acquaintance he says he has on the team is Kurt Henderson, who he knew in high school. I looked up Henderson in BYU's media guide for this fall but couldn't find him on the list. He must be a new walk-on.
That is where Hine will start building his career as he joins the team.
"I'm excited to see what changes there have been," he said. "You always expect things will change over time. I'm just happy to be a part of it."
After his sophomore year at Snow Canyon, Hine committed to Bronco Mendenhall. As a junior in high school, Hine broke a 29-year-old Utah high school high jump record with a leap of 7-feet-2. That same year, he broke a 37-year old BYU Invitational high jump mark of 7-0.
In high school, Hine played nearly every position on the field at Snow Canyon. In track, he won the 4A long jump title his senior year with a second-place 4A finish in the javelin.
Hine is slated to be a running back in college, but is prepared to switch to any position where Mendenhall deems he is needed.
"I'll play running back, linebacker, receiver, defensive back, offensive lineman, quarterback or defensive lineman," he said over the weekend. "Whatever they want me to do."
If he sticks at running back, he'll have to contend with a BYU squad that returns every running back in 2011 including J.J. Diluigi, Josh Quezada, Bryan Kariya, Zed Mendenhall, David Foote, Ryan Folson and returning missionaries Michael Alisa and Iona Pritchard.
Unlike Alisa and Pitchard, Hine never participated on BYU's team as a freshman.
"It will be an adjustment, I'm sure," he said.
I asked Hine if he thought he could ever high jump 7-2 (11 inches above his head) again in his life. He said if he concentrates on football, it would be tough.
"If I worked on the high jump and put some time into it, I have no doubt I could break my personal record."
Two years ago, Hine left Utah for Panama. The first few days of his mission he heard gunfire at night and he was concerned and a little scared.
But in the months that followed he came to love the people of that country: "They're just like anybody else, once you get to know them," he said.
Hine said he's grown since his high school days: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically, although he's lost some weight.
What did he learn in the last two years?
"Well, when you are in the service of your neighbor, you are only in the service of God," he said.
Ironically, that's where Hine will start this weekend when he learns the names of his newest neighbors.
He begins a new mission.
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