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The Most Recruited Football Player in the Country Is Feeling Disrespected

Damon Sayles@@DamonSaylesNational Recruiting AnalystSeptember 28, 2016

Anthony Hines III is one of the nation's top-ranked inside linebackers who, as a 4-star athlete, is driven to earn that fifth star.
Anthony Hines III is one of the nation's top-ranked inside linebackers who, as a 4-star athlete, is driven to earn that fifth star.Credit: Student Sports

PLANO, Texas — It's a warm Thursday evening, and Anthony Hines III picks up a broom and begins to sweep the floor. The move is routine for the 17-year-old who periodically comes to his father's barber shop to help him close the place.

"You missed a spot, son," his father says, pointing.

It's a small enough clump of hair to go unnoticed by most, but for Anthony Hines II, a 25-year professional in the field, something even that tiny is easy to spot. It's all about attention to detail. He strives for perfection: a lesson he instills every day in his son—a senior linebacker at Plano East Senior High School in the Northeast sector of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Nobody's perfect on a football field, but young Anthony is good enough to have more than twice as many legitimate offers than the large majority of other players in his class. According to his 247Sports profile, he has 90 Division I offers.

Not 10. Not 20. Not even 50. Ninety. Of those, nearly all come from FBS schools.

And yet, there's something amiss. For all his letters and offers, the barrage of phone calls (Hines and his family had to change their home and cell numbers) and the high praise from college coaches coast to coast, Hines has to answer one question every day:

Why are you not a consensus 5-star player?

Anthony III helps his father, Anthony II, close the barber shop on occasion.
Anthony III helps his father, Anthony II, close the barber shop on occasion.Credit: Damon Sayles/Bleacher Report

Of the four national recruiting sites that rank high school players—247Sports, Scout.com, Rivals.com and ESPN.com—only Scout lists Hines as a 5-star player. The other sites give him four stars.

Scout and ESPN rank him as the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker; the 247Sports composite ratings, which combine the rankings of the major media recruiting services into an overall rating, rank him second at the position. He is the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker listed on 247Sports' own rankings list. Rivals ranks him ninth.

Among all players in the 2017 class, he ranges from Scout's 19th-best prospect to Rivals' 231st. In the 247Sports composite, he's No. 85.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me," Hines says while sweeping. "With my competitive spirit, of course I'm going to be bothered by it.

"Of course I want to be a 5-star."

Hines' stats certainly align with his stack of offers. He has 482 tackles in his high school career, including 87 this season. In Friday's game against Wylie (Texas) High School, he recorded a season-high 23 tackles and two interceptions. He made 205 tackles as a junior, including 113 solo stops, according to MaxPreps.

But not everyone is sold on him.

"I don't see the physicality that you want to see in a 5-star linebacker," one FBS coach says.

Credit: Damon Sayles/Bleacher Report

The elder Hines has seen the writing online and even heard the talk around the barber shop.

Overrated.

Overhyped.

Does it matter? With 90 offers and the college football future of his dreams in sight, why worry about a missing star in a player rating?

Ask Hines that question, and you'll start to see why. When he talks about being the best football player in his class, his eyes dance. His body language shifts.

"It's hard to see yourself not supported," Hines says. "To me, the offers are great, and I'm always happy to get a new one, but the competitor in me is always looking at being evaluated."

He's aware that a fifth star has nothing to do with success at the college level. Or beyond. He knows all about J.J. Watt, a 2-star defensive end coming out of high school; Richard Sherman, a 3-star athlete; and B.J. Raji, a 2-star defensive tackle, according to Rivals.com.

There are 32 players listed on 247Sports' industry-driven composite rankings as 5-star talents and 22 players with 5-stars listed on the site's own rankings, but NFL teams draft more than 250 rookies into the league every year.

Sometimes, though, it's about short-term goals. And being a consensus 5-star player is a short-term goal for Hines. Until it's met, consider him in a pissed-off-for-greatness mood.

And consider his father his biggest cheerleader.

"When he works out, he works very hard, and you see that he's working because this is what he wants," the elder Hines says. "I know with the goals he sets for himself, it bothers him. But not as much as me. It bothers the hell out of me."

To Hines, being a top-100 player in the nation and the highest-ranked inside linebacker in the class of 2017 is great. It just isn't enough.

"Every offer is a blessing," the younger Hines says. "But I'm never satisfied."

Scout.com

Hines' first offer came when he was a baby-face eighth-grader. His father started sending colleges tapes of his playmaking son, who not only was a tackling machine, but also was a bruising running back. Mississippi State was the first to respond in earnest.

"Self-promotion was the big thing early," Hines II says. "I wanted to get him in front of as many schools as I possibly could without going there first. Mississippi State was a school who saw that film and said we needed to send him to their camp."

The Hines family went to Starkville, Mississippi, and young Anthony excelled in an environment where many others his age would have frozen. Hines still had a week of middle school left when he lined up to compete with several high school stars, including Arthur McGinnis, who committed to Oklahoma.

"Coach [Geoff] Collins was their [defensive coordinator] at the time, and he kept saying, 'If you were a junior, you'd be offered,'" Hines III says. "But at the end of the day, they went ahead and offered anyway. I'd just turned 14 not too long before that.

"It was probably the best day of my life."

After Mississippi State, Hines picked up offers from Akron and Montana. This was all before he played a down in high school. The offers started rolling in during the winter of his freshman year. Navy came calling. Then Hawaii. Then Utah. And then Louisiana-Lafayette.

From there, the recruiting life became a blur.

Credit: Student Sports

"Once he got Navy, he picked up at least one or two offers a month. Then it went to two or three a week," Hines II says. "By the summer [before] his sophomore year, he had 48. It was crazy."

New offers meant new popularity for Hines. He talks about going to restaurants and being stopped by athletes he didn't know but who knew him. In the halls at Plano East, peers talked about which school they felt was best for him. And let's not forget the praise from his social media followers.

But with every positive message, someone was out there calling Hines overhyped.

"We had this one coach come to the shop who coaches for a middle school on the west side of Plano," Hines II says. "The barbers here are always bragging on Anthony, and this guy said he's overrated. He said he watched and scouted him in a game, and that was the game Anthony had 29 tackles. It's funny.

"I'll speak to him every time he comes in. I won't let something like that bother me. If you don't have your haters, you're not living."

In case it isn't obvious, it does bother him. At another moment, he acknowledges it.

"That's my baby boy, and if you're going to evaluate him, evaluate him on what he does—not because he has a ton of offers," Hines II says. "If Anthony was a kid who only had 30 offers, he'd be a 5-star on every site."

Damon Sayles @DamonSayles

The nation's top-ranked outside LB and inside LB. @Dylan1Moses_ and @TheAntHines_Era have 130 offers combined. https://t.co/b19bc7qu0E

What do recruiters see in Hines? A 6'3", 226-pound ball hawk at middle linebacker. Hines bench-presses 385 pounds, squats 500 and dead-lifts 585. He has run the 40-yard dash in hand-held times of sub-4.5 seconds during school testing.

He's made trips with his father to colleges nationwide to experience the atmospheres, take in camps and introduce himself to coaches. His dad has put away money and sacrificed weekends at work—often peak earning hours for a barber—for these unofficial visits.

"We've been around, but not as much as people think. People think we've gone to every school," Hines II says. "We've been to several schools several times."

Among the many schools Hines III has trekked to since eighth grade (LSU, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan), he's visited his home-state schools extensively.

"We knew back when he was in middle school coming to high school that he could play football at a high level," one prominent FBS head coach says. "You notice his maturity level and how he's grown. He's always been a step ahead, and his maturity has carried him a long way."

Michael Fletcher, a former CFL star and linebackers coach at Nike's The Opening (arguably the most prestigious high school football showcase), agrees.

"The first thing you recognize is that he's an alpha. He's what you embody at the linebacker position," Fletcher says of Hines, who as a sophomore walked away with camp MVP honors at a regional competition in the Dallas area. "The intensity he plays with is unrivaled as far as high school linebackers go, and he gets hungrier every play. It's impressive to see that from a 17-year-old."

Jason Howell, a senior recruiting analyst for TexAgs, has known Hines since his freshman year.

"A lot of times, that first impression, that first look can be a lie," Howell says. "I think how he's reshaped some things, you can make a case for him being a 5-star."

Fletcher remembers how difficult it was for him to make the call last year to tell Hines he wasn't one of the 18 linebackers chosen for The Opening.

"He was the 19th guy of 18 linebackers," Fletcher says. "He was disappointed, but he embraced that challenge. He told me then that the next year I wouldn't find any fault in his game. He said he was coming to wreck heads."

Rank by Offers lists Sacramento, California, defensive end D.J. Johnson as the most-offered player in the country with 96, but Bleacher Report has learned through contact with college coaches that many of those offers are not legitimate. Loganville, Georgia, cornerback Jamyest Williams is next with 49 offers, according to the site.

Craig Haubert, national recruiting analyst for ESPN Recruiting, says the aggressive reporting of offers can be a negative, as it raises expectations.

"People expect you to be Superman," Haubert says, adding that he likes Hines' size and build and how, as a tackler, he "likes to wrap up as opposed to uncoil and light people up."

Anthony Hinesᴵᴵᴵ♠️ @TheAntHines_Era

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But is that a reason Hines has missed out on earning 5-star status?

"He's tall, athletic, fast. He's everything you want in a linebacker," one FBS coach says. "But is he that kind of big-hit guy? Can he be that guy at the next level?"

Hines laughs it off.

"People are always going to find something," he says. "Most of the evaluators who say that have never seen me play in person. It's cool; I hear stuff like that, and it motivates me."

Greg Powers, a national recruiting analyst who covers the Midlands region for Scout, which is the only major site that has given Hines that fifth star, says evaluators need to look at a multitude of skills—not just big hits—and that the decision to award a fifth star to Hines was an easy one.

"He runs to the football well: sideline to sideline," Powers says. "He's always around the ball."

"The good news is that he's got all of his senior year to earn that fifth star and move up in the rankings," says Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports.

In years past, final player ratings have been released following January all-star games.

"He has 5-star, elite skill sets, but so do many other guys, and you can't take that away from those guys," Wiltfong says. "I know it bothers him, but that's what he should feel. He has almost 90 offers, and he's probably thinking, 'What else do I need to do?' He's a competitor, and I really like that about him."

Hines narrowed his list of schools to a top 10 in July. He says he'll announce his commitment Nov. 29. Whether he goes to the next level as a 4-star or a 5-star, he'll be prized.

"College coaches have what they call a 'no-brainer,' and I've been blessed to have some college coaches call me a no-brainer," Hines says. "There are only a few of those in the class. A no-brainer directly correlates to a 5-star, in my opinion.

"It's not supposed to bother you, but when I'm in the gym, it's fuel."

    

Damon Sayles is a national recruiting analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand. All player rankings courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.