D.J. Hinton was wide-eyed when he toured the Arizona Wildcats’ football facilities for the first time. He was a seventh-grader at a time when Nick Foles and Ka’Deem Carey were still on campus, and was, understandably, star struck.
At some point, he sat down to watch Wildcats highlights from the early 2000s. Hinton kept his eye on No. 2 for the Wildcats, an athletic cornerback who tallied three interceptions in his career, including two as a senior.
D.J.’s father, David Hinton, could play.
These are the perks of being the son of a former football player — the highlights, the access and, of course, the genetics.
“I’ve watched plenty” highlights, said D.J. Hinton, now a senior standout at Tucson High. “He still coaches me when I get home, the things he liked, the things I should do, the things I shouldn’t do, and it’s a true blessing.
“He said he was just a little bit more physical than me, but I’m more athletic than he was.”
More athletic? David Hinton ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at his pro day. He registered a 40-inch vertical leap.
Still, it might be true. D.J. Hinton is thriving across the street from his father’s old stomping grounds. He’s athletic enough to play both running back and cornerback for the Badgers (2-1), who will face Salpointe Catholic on Friday.
Hinton has some history with this week’s opponent. He spent three seasons at Salpointe before transferring to Tucson and seemingly finding his place on and off the field. Hinton has rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns in three games and has intercepted three passes on defense.
Oh, he’s also the team’s punter.
“We were talking during the summer, starting to establish schedules, and he just kind of mentioned, ‘Hey, Coach, I can kick,’ ” Tucson High coach Justin Argraves said. “At first I just chuckled because when you ask, everybody on the team says they can kick. But when he got out there, he’s got a leg on him.”
Hinton has punted 12 times, and pinned three of them inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He’s averaging 36 yards per punt.
Argraves said that he’s never had a player who could thrive on offense, defense and at a punter.
“That just plays into his coachability and his work ethic,” Argraves said. “It’s pretty nice to have that on our side.”
Added Hinton: “It is tiring (playing three positions), but I’m just doing what the coaches ask me to do, no questions asked, and when I do get tired, the right people know when to come in, and I have full trust in them like they have full trust in me.”
Hinton will have mixed emotions Friday.
“It’s gonna be a little weird, but I”m up for the challenge,” Hinton said. “I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can possibly be, and we’ll see how the outcome will be. … It’s like every other game.”
Right now, Hinton’s only college offer is from Eastern Arizona, a junior college in Thatcher, Arizona, so odds are he won’t quite follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming an Arizona Wildcat.
But Hinton isn’t all too concerned with that, anyway.
“During the recruiting process I’m not too worried about it,” Hinton said. “Like, the coaches at camps I’ve been to said don’t worry about it, it’ll come, and I’m just waiting patiently.”
Argraves added: “D.J. is just a tremendous young man. He’s always positive, he’s always got a smile on his face, so it’s hard to have a bad day when he’s around.”