Yale football appears to have scored big in the offseason when Bo Hines, a wide receiver from North Carolina State, announced his intentions to transfer to Yale in the fall. Hines, a true freshman, led the Wolfpack in both catches and yards on the season.
“I really want to come in and be a top contributor,” Hines said. “That’s how I’ve always spelled it out. I’m always confident in my ability to make plays. I feel like no matter what level I play at, I can do that.”
On Dec. 27, Hines announced his intent to transfer from NC State on Twitter. He followed that up with a Jan. 11 tweet stating that he will continue his college football career at Yale. While Hines’s arrival is not official until the Office of Undergraduate Admissions finishes deliberating on his application, he figures to make a big impact for a team that graduates its top two wideouts from the 2014 season.
Hines was born into a football family. His father, Todd Hines, suited up as a wide receiver in both the NFL and the Canadian Football League, for the Detroit Lions and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, respectively. He started playing football in second grade and took snaps from under center for seven years before switching to receiver in high school.
“I thought the best opportunity to play at the next level was to be a receiver, since I didn’t have the super height that a lot of these quarterbacks have,” Hines said.
Hines did eventually return to quarterback when, during his senior year at Charlotte Christian High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, his starting quarterback went down with an injury halfway through the season. From the backfield, Hines threw for 525 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
The gridiron star also excelled in other sports. The fastest recruit invited to the Best of the Midwest combine in 2013, Hines was a three-time state champion in track. He won the 200 meter dash, posting a time of 22.07 seconds, and also participated on the first-place 4×100 meter and 4×200 meter relay teams. These stats are consistent with Hines’s 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds.
But for Hines, track was an off-season sport that kept him in shape for football.
“I played baseball too, although I decided that track would help me with football more, so I started running track when I was a freshman,” Hines said. “I did that all the way through my high school career, except I couldn’t participate in senior year track season because I graduated early.”
This situation arose partially because Hines committed to NC State in April of his junior year, choosing the local school over Harvard, Nebraska and Appalachian State. He cited the Raleigh school’s proximity to Charlotte and the ability to represent his home state as factors in his decision.
NC State, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, is also a school in the Football Bowl Subdivision — the most competitive division in collegiate football.
“I’d be playing the highest level of football. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could play against the top athletes in the country. There’s something about representing your home state that drew me to the school,” Hines said.
Hines moved to Raleigh in the spring of his senior year, splitting time between class and offseason training. He was one of only nine freshmen to join the Wolfpack in January, according to NC State.
With several months of preparation underneath his belt, there was no need for Hines to redshirt. He played in all 13 of the Wolfpack’s games, including a victory in the Bitcoin Bowl against the University of Central Florida, a game in which Hines caught three passes for 79 yards.
While there, the wideout racked up yards, including 108 against the defending champions and then-No. 1 Florida State Seminoles. NC State finished 8–5 on the year, good enough for fifth in their bracket.
“I’ve never seen a freshman wide receiver play like that,” said Jake Lange, associate sports editor of the NC State newspaper, the Technician. “He had a huge impact, making big plays, especially his first touchdown on the first play of the game against Florida State. He scored a touchdown, 54 yards.”
By the time the season ended, Hines had a full year of school under his belt. After talking with his family, Hines said, he made the difficult to decision to leave NC State.
“I put a lot of thought and prayer into it,” Hines said. “I thought it was the best decision for me. Once I made that decision, I started reaching out to schools.”
Hines said he knew he wanted to attend an Ivy League institution. A prospective political science major with aspirations of attending law school, Hines wanted a university that would allow him to continue to play football at a high level while also offering a different academic experience.
“Looking back on it, I kind of wish I had considered more options,” Hines said of his recruitment process out of high school. “I don’t regret my experiences I had at NC State. I’m a better player and a better person, so I don’t think I would second-guess my initial decision, but I’m glad to be where I am now.”
Once the decision was made, Hines reached out to an old acquaintance: Morgan Roberts ’16.
Ties to Yale
Prior to the 2013 season, Roberts transferred from fellow ACC member Clemson to Yale, where he broke multiple school records this past season. But before embarking on a college football career, Roberts played under center at Charlotte Country Day School, a private high school whose rival is Hines’s alma mater, Charlotte Christian.
The community in Charlotte is tight knit, Roberts said, and even though the parochial schools are technically all rivals, friendships spanning different teams are common. There was a lot of communication between players in the conference, according to Roberts.
Roberts and Hines have even played together before. Roberts was friendly with the older receivers on Hines’s team, so when he went to visit them, he often saw Hines.
“I had thrown with [Hines] over the summer a time or two,” Roberts said. “I’d go over to his high school, throw with him and [throw] with some other players.”
So when Hines began looking at the Ivy League, he contacted Roberts. The two met over winter break, before Hines had settled on Yale, and threw the ball together.
According to Roberts, he advised Hines to take a step back and understand his original decision before selecting a new school.
“When he contacted me and asked me about the process, I was very open about it,” Roberts said. “Coming from my conference, I was excited about it, not initially for him to play at Yale, just for him to play in the Ivy League.”
Hines considered transferring to other schools in the Ivy League, including Harvard. When it came time to choose between the two Ancient Eight rivals, Hines examined the schools’ academics.
“Obviously both schools have extraordinary academics, however, I feel as if Yale is the best fit for me and what I would like to study,” Hines said.
Following his official visit to Yale over the weekend of Jan. 9, Hines announced his decision. Impressed by the coaches, team members and administrators he met on his overnight, Hines said he felt very welcomed and called the visit “a great experience.” It was the first time he saw the University.
But Hines is not officially a Bulldog quite yet. Although he announced his intent to transfer to Yale and committed verbally to the school, the Yale admissions committee has not yet looked at transfer applications.
Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan explained that Hines has not yet committed to Yale, but rather to the admissions process.
“This office won’t start reviewing transfer applications until the middle of March,” Quinlan said. “We have about 1,000 transfer applications a year, and we only admit somewhere between 20 and 30 transfer students a year. Our goal is to get about 24 transfer students, or two transfers for each college. A small handful of those students every year are recruited athletes.”
According to the Ivy League recruitment policies, “Coaches may make a commitment to support a prospective student athlete’s application. However only the Admissions Office at each Ivy League school has the authority to admit an applicant and to notify an applicant of admission.”
While on campus, he had the chance to meet with head coach Tony Reno and the coaching staff. With them, Hines watched film and observed how the offense was run.
“It looks like a very fun offense to play in, for a receiver,” Hines said. “I know they have a lot of receivers who were successful last year, caught a lot of balls, so it was definitely fun to watch.”
Bo the Bulldog
Those successful receivers include Grant Wallace ’15 and 2014 captain Deon Randall ’15. Wallace led the Football Championship Subdivision and the Ivy League in receiving yards per game with 113.9; Randall was second among the Ancient Eight with 92.9.
Their graduation leaves a sizable gap in the Bulldogs’ offense, which was top-ranked in both the Ivy League and the FCS last year.
“I already was very confident in our wide receiving corps coming in to this next season,” Roberts said. “But we’re very excited about [Hines’s transfer]. He’s an absolute stud. It’s incredible how fast he is, how he gets breaks, his hands. We’re very lucky to have him come in this year and fill the place of two great receivers.”
At 6’1” and 190 pounds, Hines is built more like the 5’11” and 195 lb. Wallace than Randall, who is 5’8”. However, due to his combination of speed and size, Hines is capable of filling both Wallace and Randall’s spots, a fact that current players observed. Roberts praised Hines’s versatility, saying he is fast enough to play outside and win one-on-ones as a wideout. Furthermore, Roberts said that Hines is smart and shifty enough to play in the slot.
Those who observed the receiver at NC State concurred.
“His best quality is that he was a great route runner, very strong receiver, great hands, never really missed any catches, just a great all-around guy in the game,” Lange said.
Last season, the Bulldogs went 8–2 with five conference wins, good enough for third in the Ivy League. The team’s record was a three-game improvement on the previous year, which was three wins better than the year before that. Such progress did not go unnoticed, as Hines said Yale’s record played a small factor in his decision.
“I am a competitive person who loves to win at everything I do.” Hines said. “I believe the players and coaches at Yale are the same way. I want to do whatever I can to help Yale win championships.”
Hines said much of his visit was spent with the team. He added that he felt as if he could fit in with the Bulldogs — a key component to next season’s success.
With offseason practice already underway and preseason training beginning in a little over six months, the Elis are looking for players who will have an immediate impact.
“I know that Coach Reno looks for kids who are going to compete right away,” captain Cole Champion ’16 said. “He wants them to fit in with the culture we’ve built here.”
This culture has, in some part, been built on successful transfer players. Patrick Witt ’12 began as a backup quarterback at the University of Nebraska before transferring to Yale. He started for three seasons, setting school records in completions, yards and completion percentage.
In Reno’s tenure, two of the most prolific members of the 2014 offense – Roberts and running back Tyler Varga ’15 – were transfer students. Varga began his college football career at the University of Western Ontario, where he led Canada in scoring his freshman year. He entered Yale prior to the 2012 season.
Hines’s situation is slightly different from the previous three, however. Witt and Roberts, although Division I prospects, were second and third-string players, respectively, before entering Yale, and Varga played in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport league, whereas Hines made major contributions for a major-conference team.
According to NCAA regulations, Reno is not permitted to comment on individual recruits. As of press time, Reno had not responded to requests for comment.
Hines does not yet know exactly what his role will be in Yale’s offense.
“When I get there, I have to come in and compete just like everybody else,” he said. “I don’t expect anything to be given to me just because I performed at a high level before. I have a lot of respect for all the guys who are there currently. I just want to come in and [try] my hardest, and hopefully make a great contribution next year.”