The team is in need of an upgrade at the kicker position and got one Tuesday when Adairsville kicker Dakota Hines signed to play for the Lions at Adairsville High in front of family, coaches and friends.
“He has such a strong leg. His accuracy is pretty good and he definitely has the leg to put it in the end zone on kickoffs. He’s been a big part of our success here the last three years,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said of Hines. “Mars Hill struggled with special teams last year, so it’s a chance for him to go compete for a starting job. They feel like he can compete right away.
“The biggest thing is, you’re real proud to see when that combination of athletics and academics comes together for a hardworking young man, who is hopefully going to reap the benefits of playing at the next level and, in the end, get a college degree on top of it.”
Hines made three field goals for Adairsville in 2013 and made 41-of-43 extra point attempts for a 95 percent conversion rate. Hines’ talented leg has allowed him to see some kicking duties in all four years with the Tigers, including three as the team’s primary kicker. Adairsville reached the state playoffs in all three of those seasons and Hines racked up 169 points for his career. He made the all-region and all-county teams as a junior and senior and he displayed his powerful leg on kickoffs as well, hitting 65 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
“Every coach wants [a kicker who can kick it off into the end zone] because you don’t want to have to cover. You take one opportunity from them to score every time by him putting it in the end zone,” Bishop said. “He regularly makes 50-plus yeard field goals. Even during an all-star game, in one of the practices, we were in the little pre-practice session and he kicked a 63-yarder that night. His potential is out the roof. It’s unlimited what he can do.”
Mars Hill is a Division II football program located in North Carolina. Hines was originally set to play for West Georgia Tech, but he was notified the night before national signing day that the school was cancelling its football program.
“[West Georgia Tech coach Tony Johnson] called me the night before signing day around 7 o’clock at night. It was a complete mindblower. They didn’t think anything was going to happen. They had a program for one year already and then it just disappeared and no one knows what happened,” Hines said of the experience. “They said it was because of money, but most of the coaches down there couldn’t figure it out. They hired a band director, they were going to build a brand new facility and everything. Then all of a sudden, money became an issue.”
Hines was unsure if he would have another opportunity to play college football.
“It hurt. It did, but I had a really good relationship with that coach and I knew he would help me out. He helped me out a lot these last three months,” Hines said. “After it happened, he started calling people. My dad got back on it. I got back on it and we found Mars Hill and we’re really happy with that decision.
“At first, you think about if nothing happens, what am I going to do? I’m just going to have to go to college and not play. But after [Johnson] started calling people, it picked back up.”
Coaches are always looking for talented kickers and Hines found interest when his initial plans fell through. Reinhardt University, Point University and LaGrange College showed interest, but Hines eventually settled on Mars Hill.
“The coaches have been there for a long time. They were real nice and they had a really close together campus and it was a really nice campus,” he said. “I think I had a better chance [to play] at Mars Hill. They had three freshmen kickers last year. [Reinhardt] was mainly looking for a kickoff guy, which is not a problem, but at Mars, I can get to do it all. They don’t have anybody, really.”
Hines’ powerful leg should translate to the college level, but Bishop also believes his work ethic and academic prowess will allow him to earn a degree.
“He’s going to have to adjust to the college level of playing. The uprights are tighter, but it’s a situation where he’s been so focused in his high school career. This past summer he put in countless hours, him and his family travelling to kicking camps and showcases and stuff of that nature, so he’s really put the work in and you’re real proud to see when the combination of athletics and academics come together,” Bishop said. “Not only is he a good football player, but he’s also a good student in the classroom. He’s right at a 3.8 GPA. He’s probably real mature for his age, too. He’d bring a lot to the table to wherever he was going, but I know Mars Hill, in talking to the coaches, that they’re excited about him and always was about the prospects of him coming up there.”
Hines hopes to have the impact at Mars Hill in the same way he did for the Adairsville program. That impact was never more evident than on Sept. 28, 2012 during Hines’ junior season. Adairsville trailed region foe Ringgold by one point on homecoming night late in the fourth quarter. On Adairsville’s last drive, then coach Jim Kremer elected to go for a game-winning 39-yard field goal with little time remaining. Hines converted on the attempt to send the Tigers to a 40-38 victory, the first of a three-game streak.
“It was a situation where the first one got blocked and we recovered the ball and kicked it again. That was to win the game because there was basically no time left in the game,” Bishop said. “That was the biggest kick of his career. The fact that it was blocked and he had to kick it again was even more amazing.”