Clarkston Hines attended exactly one game of the old United States Football League, that upstart pro circuit with its non-traditional spring/summer schedule. The Tampa Bay Bandits visited the Bulls of Jacksonville, where Hines lived, and lit up the Gator Bowl scoreboard. He doesn’t remember the point total, but he does remember how impressed he was with the offense that Bandits coach Steve Spurrier brought to town.DURHAM, N.C. – Back when he was a high school football standout in Florida during the mid 1980s,
A few short years later, with Hines two seasons into an injury-marred college career, Spurrier was hired at Duke following the USFL’s demise, and Hines had an immediate flashback. “As soon as it was announced that he was going to be our head football coach, I thought about that game and that offense and the opportunity I had to be a part of that,” Hines recalled recently.
Before Spurrier’s arrival, Hines had missed one year due to knee surgery and played one year in a cumbersome brace, catching all of three passes from his wide receiver position. But during his ensuing three campaigns under the influence of the former Heisman Trophy winner, Hines exploded into one of the brightest stars ever seen in the ACC, before or since. When he graduated in 1989, Hines was the league’s all-time receiving leader, the holder of a significant NCAA career record and a catalyst for Duke’s first ACC football championship in over two decades.
Now over two decades beyond his Blue Devil days, Hines has been tabbed for the most significant honor related to his football career — induction in the College Football Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place Dec. 7 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. He will become the 10th former Duke player and 12th person with Blue Devil ties to be enshrined — and the first whose career played out during the past 50 years. Mike McGee, the Outland Trophy winner as a senior in 1959, was the most recent Blue Devil inductee (in 1990) before Hines.
“It’s otherworldly,” said Hines, now a 43-year-old health care executive and father of four in Statesville, N.C. “It’s hard to piece together. I’m still in awe and very grateful. I consider it an honor not only for Duke but for the football team — and I like the fact that this happened at a time when we are feeling a lot more confident about the direction our football program is headed in. So I hope it’s something that will be deemed positive in the resurrection of our Duke football program.”
Hines was an integral part of Duke’s last true football resurrection, the three-year Spurrier era of 1987-89 when the Blue Devils won 20 games, captured an ACC crown and played in their first postseason contest since the 1961 Cotton Bowl.
Working with four different quarterbacks — Steve Slayden in 1987, Anthony Dilweg in 1988, Billy Ray and Dave Brown in 1989 — Hines posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and caught 38 touchdown passes. There had only been two total 1,000-yard seasons in the history of the league before Hines. The touchdown receptions figure was the most in NCAA history at that time.
Hines was a first team All-America in 1988 and 1989, the ACC player of the year in 1989 and the ACC’s McKevlin Award winner as the male athlete of the year for all sports. He still tops the Duke receiving charts and remains the only ACC player to lead the league in receiving yardage three consecutive years. His 38 TD catches and 17 100-yard games also remain as conference standards.
“I’m just proud of how we were able to turn things around as a team,” said Hines, a 1999 Duke Sports Hall of Fame inductee. “My first couple of years we had losing records and didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. With Coach Spurrier coming in and bringing his swagger and his high degree of confidence, giving the players belief and having an offense that could score a lot of points, and then leaving Duke with an ACC championship, that’s what I’m proud of — the fact that we were down but we picked ourselves up and turned it around.”
Hines had to turn it around personally as well after the devastating knee injury that struck during preseason practice of his freshman year. He eventually had his anterior cruciate ligament removed and played without it for most of his career, admitting now that he was unaware at the time that he wasn’t supposed to be able to do much without an ACL. He credits receivers coach Marvin Brown for helping him rise above that adversity.
“Clarkston was highly skilled as a wide receiver with the extraordinary ability to make ALL the catches, regardless of the circumstances. He never took a play off,” said Dilweg, the 1988 ACC player of the year. “He was very knowledgeable of defensive secondary schemes, which allowed him to anticipate a defender's move, which ultimately led to a number of explosive offensive plays.
“Probably what I admired most about Clarkston is that he fiercely overcame a number of injuries early in his career to become the most prolific and decorated wide receiver in Duke football's history while maintaining his strong sense of humility."
Promoted as “The Frequent Flyer,” Hines recalls having a burning desire to make the most of his final three years at Duke following the physical woes and losing ways of the first two years. “All of those things worked together to put a fire in me that I was just going to go for it, and whatever happens, happens,” he said. “Everything just worked together.
“I have to credit the offense in general, just how innovative and imaginative it was. I was able to move around a lot...I was able to be in a slot, be on the outside on either side, go in motion, just a lot of things. Probably the main thing was the complexity. If you took away the receivers, we had really good tight ends like Dave Colonna and Bud Zuberer. Those guys could catch the ball. And we had Roger Boone and Randy Cuthbert who could catch the ball out of the backfield.
“There were so many weapons that it was hard for an entire game to shut everything out. It was a really good time. And I don’t recall defenses being as difficult as they are today. The schemes today are head-and-shoulders more difficult than they were 20 years ago in the college game.”
Hines’ pro football career was brief but his life since has been rewarding. For the past 12 years he’s worked for DaVita Inc., a Fortune 500 company that specializes in dialysis services. He is a vice president who leads the firm’s North Carolina division. And, Hines and his wife Kathy have been busy raising their family of four sons — Clark (20, now a UNC student), Caleb (15), Noah (12) and Jacob (10).