JHS Grad David Hinson Finds Success With Chiefs
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jamestown native David Hinson is the co-director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, who will be meeting the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. The following article, which first appeared in The Post-Journal on Jan. 31 2020, details Hinson’s NFL odyssey that culminated with the Chiefs winning Super Bowl LIV. Because of work commitments, the 1995 Jamestown High School graduate was unavailable for an interview this week. He will, however, be returning to Jamestown when he is inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 20.
By Scott Kindberg
It was a chance meeting, really.
City Hall’s Tracy Plaza was the venue and I — and hundreds of others — were there to celebrate Jamestown High School’s 1994 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A football championship, which the Red Raiders achieved Thanksgiving weekend at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
After speeches were delivered and Coach Wally Huckno received a key to the city, the crowd began to disperse. As it did so, I almost literally ran into star running back David Hinson, whose three-touchdown, 175-yard performance was the difference in the 26-20 victory over North Rockland. The young man, who finished the season with 2,241 yards and a then-state record 35 touchdowns, smiled as we shared a congratulatory handshake and then we went our separate ways.
To all but a handful of seniors on that team, the warm, figurative community embrace on that cold, early December day 25 years ago served as their last career football hurrah, replaced by college plans and, well, life.
Hinson had other ideas, though.
His reward — a couple decades in the making — will be realized Sunday evening, because when Super Bowl LIV kicks off between Kansas City and San Francisco at 6:30 p.m., Hinson, his wife, Lindsey, and their 9-year-old daughter, Aza, will be there to witness it.
For Aza, it will be her first NFL game. For her dad, who is in his third year as an area scout for the Chiefs, and 20th overall in the NFL, it will be the culmination of a dream.
“The opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, become a part of this organization and help them put things together and put together a Super Bowl team is what you do it for,” Hinson said.
Even though Hinson won a state high school football championship, claimed state player-of-the-year honors, and captured a state title in the 400-meter hurdles the following spring, he wasn’t overwhelmed with Division I collegiate offers after that banner senior year.
Nevertheless, he didn’t let that derail his ambitions. Initially a walk-on running back at the University at Buffalo, Hinson ended up becoming a four-year letterwinner for the Bulls from 1995-98.
“I loved football from the moment I was really young,” Hinson said earlier this week. “The first time playing at 9 years old, I knew that football was what I wanted to do and play.”
Yet, while he pretended to be Jim Kelly or Thurman Thomas during pickup games, his goal growing up was not to play in the NFL. Instead, all he wanted to do was strap on a helmet, tug on shoulder pads and play collegiately.
“When I was able to play college, it was surreal and awesome from that standpoint,” Hinson said. “You dream about it, but you never think you’re going to get there. Life is crazy and it goes in the direction to give me the opportunity to (stay) in football.”
It’s been quite a journey, one that Hinson describes as a “slow process.”
“Even though it seemed immediate, it wasn’t,” he said.
His patience was rewarded.
During the summer of 1998 and heading into his senior year at UB, Hinson was offered, and accepted, an internship with the Bills, which was made possible by Max Bowman. A former tight ends coach and director of operations at UB, Bowman landed a job working for the NFL team and then-head coach Wade Phillips.
“I was trying to fine-tune my business degree, so I thought I wanted to go into marketing,” Hinson recalled. “(Bowman) said, ‘You want to go into marketing? You don’t want to go into football?'”
“What is there in football?”
Let’s just say it has worked out pretty well for the Jamestown native.
Upon his graduation from UB in 1999, Hinson moved to Austin, Texas, with some buddies doing odd jobs, including working for a cellphone company.
“I was working under this one guy,” he recalled. “I was a manager and he was a district manager. He said, ‘Hey, I’m going to tell the owner that I want to make you the district manager, because I’m going to go over to Europe to do music.'”
Initially, the offer was appealing to Hinson, but after thinking about it he turned it down.
“I can come back and be a cellphone manager whenever,” he recalled thinking at the time. “I called back up to Buffalo, got hold of the Bills and asked if I could do an internship again.”
A position was available, but the NFL team couldn’t guarantee it would be permanent. That hardly mattered to Hinson.
“I went back up there for another internship in the summer (of 2000) and, with that, it opened up a process,” he said. “Then they decided they wanted to keep someone on for the year as an intern, a full-time intern. That’s where my rise started.”
It was hardly glamorous at first. His duties included picking up players from the airport and driving them to the team facility in Orchard Park; taking them out to dinner; and running errands for them.
After a year of doing that, and upon the firing of Phillips and General Manager John Butler, things started to change for Hinson. In fact, when Butler took the GM job with San Diego, he also brought along two scouts who had been on the Bills’ payroll.
“(New Bills’ GM) Tom Donahoe and (Vice President of Pro Personnel) John Guy were the new regime and made me the assistant to Guy, which was great,” Hinson said. “He was a mentor in this business for me. He had been with the Steelers and had done a lot. He showed me the ropes from that standpoint and was great for me.
“The best thing was, he taught me how to scout and what was important.”
Hinson said he surprised Guy when the former said he preferred scouting college players rather than those in the professional ranks.
“College is what I love,” said Hinson, whose territory with the Chiefs includes the Southeast Conference. ” … College is a projection to see if a guy can play in the pros. Pro going against pro is an easier evaluation. … It’s easier than taking the projection of a college player at the pro level. To me, it was a lot more challenging and got me a lot more excited. I was always a fan of college football.”
Ultimately, Hinson worked for the Bills for five years, before tenures with New Orleans (2005-08), Cleveland (2009-12), the New York Jets (2013-14) and Philadelphia (2015-16). He joined the Chiefs for the 2017-18 season.
“I was lucky in New Orleans, where they gave us a little bit more say,” Hinson said. “Coach (Sean) Payton did a great job over there, like he really trusted in us and he had a lot of faith in us.”
Hinson has rewarded that faith.
“It just makes you feel so good and so proud when (the draftees) are able to do the things you thought they were able to do,” he said. “That’s what makes college so exciting. It’s that projection. There’s nothing better than feeling good about making that projection and being right about that projection.
“It’s not like I feel like they’re my sons, but I’m just so excited for them, myself and the team at the same time because you felt like you contributed.”
Hinson lives with his family in Cary, North Carolina, but his thoughts are never far removed from his Jamestown roots, including that magical run to a high school state championship a quarter-century ago.
“Time has flown by,” he said. “To have the opportunity to play in two state championships (the Red Raiders lost in the title game in 1993) … and end up winning it (in 1994) was outstanding. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in my life at that point in time.”
Hinson hopes to add the ultimate entry on his gaudy professional resume late Sunday night.
“Some people have been in this league and haven’t had either one; they haven’t won a state (high school) championship, they never won a national championship and, being in my business, they’ve never been to a Super Bowl,” he said. “A lot of buddies that I came into the business with have barely made the playoffs, let alone gone to a Super Bowl. This is a very outstanding moment and it’s just crazy the timing of it.”
Hinson, Lindsey and Aza flew to South Florida on Friday where they were joined by other team employees and their families.
“They’ll have festivities for us that will go on before the Super Bowl (and) we’ll take a team photo,” Hinson said.
Here’s guessing that one of the Chiefs’ employees wearing the biggest smile will be the man who once wore No. 32 for the Red Raiders.
“It’s exciting, it’s a little nerve wracking,” Hinson said. “You’ve waited so many years. This will be 20 years that I’ve waited and that I’ve been in the league. I’ve finally made it and it feels so good and exciting, but you’re also nervous, because this is the game of all games. We’re either going to win it or we’re not, but I know our team is going to play well and I know this is going to be a great game.”
From Tracy Plaza in Jamestown in 1994 to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in 2020, Hinson has been on quite a run as he’s climbed the NFL scouting ladder.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t really think about 25 years,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played high school and college ball and I didn’t really think about it until recently. Then, I was like, ‘Wow, it is 25 years.’ Time has flown by.”