One of BYU’s biggest recruits in 2012 has been making some big catches of his own recently. Linebacker-turned-tight end Troy Hinds is coming back from an injury-filled 2015 season and he credits something unorthodox for keeping his head in the game: fly fishing.
Frustrated at being unable to play last season, Hinds turned to fishing — one of his favorite pastimes — to stay sharp and clear his mind. In fact, he fished so much that it was consistently mentioned by his teammates.
“He’s a great fisherman,” said linebacker Harvey Langi at BYU football’s media day. “He fishes like every day, I swear.”
Linebacker Fred Warner knows of Hinds’ passion, as well.
“Oh yeah, he loves to fish,” Warner said.
Fishing became a kind of therapy for Hinds, helping to keep his mind off his struggles with injury. After battling through hip discomfort during his freshman season, an MRI revealed bone spurs on both of his hips that were causing significant damage.
As a result, he had two hip surgeries in a six- month span and spent a full year without playing football.
This was unexpected for Hinds, who felt that he was positioned for success following his freshman season. After returning home from a mission to football-crazed Mississippi, everything seemed on track for him.
“I remember as a freshman … he was just coming off the mission looking like a Spartan already,” Warner said. “He was super fast. He was a very good pass-rusher my freshman year.”
But Hinds began to suffer mentally due to his injuries the following year. He believes that his journey back to health was almost harder mentally than it was physically.
“It was hard to be around the other players in the locker room just because I wanted to be there so bad,” Hinds said. “So really, I fly fished a lot that last year.”
Hinds said he believes that players can face an injury in one of two ways: they can use it as an excuse, or they can use it to improve. Going fly fishing up Provo Canyon helped Hinds rid himself of the negative and focus on the positive.
“That’s probably the biggest thing that helped me to move forward,” Hinds said. “It just took my mind off of (the injury) and I was able to not think about it and worry about it. I was just able to do my own thing for a little while.”
But Hinds doesn’t go alone. More often than not, Troy is joined by his wife Lexi, who has taken to fishing since the two were married in April 2015. Troy called her a massive support.
“She’s always there to keep my spirits up and be patient with me and tell me to take a step back,” Hinds said. “Having (her) helped a ton.”
Now Hinds — a former defensive end — finds himself in a five-way battle for the tight end position heading into this season. None of the five players competing for playing time has ever caught a ball in a college game before, according to tight ends coach Steve Clark. Consequently, Hinds has a shot to make an impact on the field.
The change might come as a surprise to those who have followed Hinds throughout his high school career. He was rated the top prospect in Utah by 247sports.com, was a four-star defensive recruit and received offers from 15 different schools, including Stanford and Nebraska. He was one of the headliners of a star-studded recruiting class that included quarterbacks Tanner Mangum and Taysom Hill.
So why the change to offense when he was one of the top 20 defensive recruits in the country?
A suggestion from then-coach Robert Anae got the ball rolling. As Hinds had some down time during his recovery, the idea began to stick.
“It was just time for something to change,” Hinds said. “It kind of relit my fire for the love of the game.”
Clark commented that Hinds feels about 80 percent healthy, but is confident he’ll continue to recover.
“(Hinds) is not full speed yet, but he’ll get there,” Clark said.
Hinds is doing his part. He’s catching balls and working with both Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum, doing speed drills, lifting weights and working on his hands for fall camp.
Langi suggested that it might be possible that Hinds plays on both sides of the ball, saying, “he’s such a good defensive guy, too.” When asked about this, Clark joked that he and defensive line coach Steve Kafusi would have to fight about it if Hinds wants to play some defense.
Hinds is ready for his next catch. This time, he’s hoping it’s a pigskin instead of a fish.
Hinds and BYU open the season on Sept. 3 against Arizona.