Ohio State fullbacks and tight ends coach Tim Hinton looks on during a practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus earlier this year. Hinton spent the 1989 season coaching at Van Wert High School. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics)
Ohio State fullbacks and tight ends coach Tim Hinton looks on during a practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus earlier this year. Hinton spent the 1989 season coaching at Van Wert High School. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics)
By Brian Bassett

Times Bulletin Sports Editor

sports@timesbulletin.com

COLUMBUS - Before Tim Hinton took over as head football coach at Van Wert High School in 1989, he served as a graduate assistant under Coach Earle Bruce at the Ohio State University - alongside another up-and-coming graduate assistant named Urban Meyer.

The relationship between Hinton and Meyer came full circle last January when new Ohio State Coach Meyer invited Hinton to join his staff, this time as the fullbacks and tight ends coach.

Hinton accepted the job and returned to the state in which he spent almost 30 years coaching high school and college football - including a brief stop at Van Wert High School, where he served as head coach during the 1989 season.

"I was willing to start and stay around for the long-haul. Unfortunately, in this business, sometimes you can't. It's why I was there a very short period of time. But I'm grateful I was there," Hinton said of his days as a Cougar.

Following that season Hinton took an offer he could not refuse, the wide receiver coaching position at Ohio University. Hinton has made many stops over the years, but still looks back on his short time in Van Wert fondly.

"The thing about towns like Van Wert, they're absolutely wonderful places to live. The people are really good, and the school systems, the superintendents, the principals. All the people were just outstanding people. The nice thing about it, is it's a great place to raise a family. That area of Ohio is a perspective of school, academics and football - all that really in order. I think it's awesome, I think it's a great place," Hinton said.

The Hinton-led Cougars went 5-5 in 1989, and he has many good memories from his season at the helm. "I thought our Kenton win that year was an outstanding win, our kids played tremendously well. In our opening game we threw a halfback pass to beat Bryan, and the kids did a great job of managing that day," he explained.

Though departing for Ohio University in 1990, Hinton believes the Cougars were in a good position to succeed in the future. "I don't know if it was a great year or not. Unless you win them all they're never a great year. The bottom line is, I think we set a good foundation, they had a really nice year the following year. We just went through a year where we lost a ton of seniors, and we started a bunch of young kids...It's one of those things where we really needed to grow, develop, learn a system and make the system work. Unfortunately, win/loss we were 5-5."

The Buckeye coach still remembers how hard the decision was to leave Van Wert. "It was really, really hard to leave Van Wert. That stadium, the season ticket sales, the excitement for football and how they go about their business - it's outstanding. It was certainly my home and [it was] a pleasure to get the opportunity to be there and grow from it."

Hinton later spent 11 years as the head coach at Marion Harding High School, who appeared on the Lima Senior High School football schedule several times. Having spent so much time in Northwest Ohio, he still realizes the football talent this area of the state produces.

"That area has always produced. Even though it doesn't have a lot do Division I schools, it has always produced a lot of really, really good football players; and young men who are coming into a program and playing instantly because they've got good work ethic, they've got a good family structure, and they're prepared for college and the rigors of an academic load," he said.

It is for those reasons that this is an important area of the state to recruit for Hinton and Ohio State. "We will always recruit that part of Ohio solidly. I know that Ohio State is a huge influence up there. It's our job to make sure that any great player from that area of Ohio never leaves the state and goes anywhere else," he added.

Directly prior to his stop at Van Wert, Hinton was head coach at Zane Trace High School for two years. Having spent so much time in the high school ranks, he considers himself a high school coach at heart.

"I really love the high school game, it's been a major part of my life. I love the fact that you have such a major impact on the players you coach. You truly, over the time period that you coach them, have an impact on their lives. Time and time again you look at people who go to a podium, and pro players, and they [are asked] 'Who was the greatest influence on your life?' They always say their high school coach. I think that is where it's all at," he said.

After his 11 years at Marion Harding, Hinton joined Coach Mark Dantonio's staff at the Universiy of Cincinnati. He spent the next seven years at Cincinnati coaching running backs, linebackers, and even serving as the recruiting coordinator in 2009.

When Dantonio left for Michigan State in 2007, Hinton remained at Cincinnati under new head coach Brian Kelly. When Kelly was hired at Notre Dame in 2010, however, Hinton made the trip with him to South Bend to serve as the running backs coach - where he served until Meyer came calling an old friend in January.

Hinton said returning to his home state was a big part in him taking the Ohio State job. "My family has had season tickets [at Ohio State] for a long time. I have a Masters Degree from Ohio State. I've grown up a Buckeye from day-one. We truly love and have a passion for the Ohio State University and the Columbus area. My home is here, my family is here. It's tremendously exciting to be back home and represent the great state of Ohio and one of the greatest football programs in the country. Life can't get better when it comes to that," he said.

Though Meyer and Hinton's relationship goes way back, Hinton hopes his coaching ability is what caught the eye of the new Buckeye coach. "Obviously we were graduate assistants here back in the mid 80's. I had an opportunity to get to know Coach Meyer then and for me it's been nice over the years to always keep a relationship. I told a lot of people, I hope that's not the only reason I got hired. You hope you get hired because you're the right guy for the job and you do your job effectively well, you can recruit in the state of Ohio, you have a great background with high school coaches and obviously you can coach your position and be very fundamentally sound in what you are doing," Hinton described.

Though it is the offseason, Hinton said the workload has not stalled for the Ohio State coaches, especially with spring break looming. "We're getting ready to go on spring break next week. And even though you can never leave your job in many ways in college football, we will be able to get out of the office some. So what we have to do is get a tremendous amount of work done and prepared for spring practice before the spring."

Individually, Hinton is excited to work with a strong group of fullbacks and tight ends. He said the tight end will definitely be utilized in the Urban Meyer offense. "When you look at history. At Utah they had the Mackey Award (nation's top tight end) runner-up and at the University of Florida they had the Mackey Award winner - the best tight ends in the country. In this offense they'll be utilized and they're expected to excel."

Hinton has seen a lot in his 31 years of football coaching, and has learned something from every stop - including Van Wert High School in 1989. "It was just a great experience. Each of them you have, you grow from them and you become a better coach. Van Wert was no different," Hinton said before ending the interview with a "Go Cougars."