RALEIGH — The NC State football team got a boost last week when quarterback Ryan Finley announced that he would return for his final season of eligibility in 2018. Friday, the good news was tempered by two key losses as star running back Nyheim Hines and offensive tackle Will Richardson have decided to leave school a year early to enter the draft.
A two-sport all-conference performer who also earned acclaim as a sprinter on State’s track team, Hines was a All-ACC selection as a junior in 2017 as both a running back and return specialist. He led the ACC with an average of 143.7 all-purpose yards per game.
“We appreciate Nyheim’s contributions to the entire athletic program as a multisport athlete,” State coach Dave Doeren said in a statement. “He could’ve played college football anywhere in the country but he chose to stay home and come to NC State. He has made an impact on and off the football field.”
Hines earned first-team All-ACC recognition as a running back and third team status as a returner and was named a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. He will be best remembered by State fans for his two long game-breaking touchdown runs in the second half that helped his team rally to beat rival North Carolina in what will now be his final game at Carter-Finley Stadium.
He finished the season with 1,112 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing the better part of two games because of injury in his first full season as State’s featured ballcarrier. He spent his first two seasons splitting time between the backfield and wide receiver.
“I would like to thank the coaches for believing in me and giving the opportunity to play at my dream school. I appreciate everybody at NC State who has helped me along the way,” Hines said. “Last, but not least, I want to thank Wolfpack Nation for always supporting me — even in high school — to help make my dream come true. NC State will always be a part of me wherever I am in life, and I will always be drawn back here.”
Richardson, a second-team All-ACC pick, was instrumental in opening up many of the holes through which Hines ran. He was also strong in pass protection going all 11 games in which he played without allowing either a sack or a quarterback pressure.
The 6-foot-6, 322-pound Burlington native played every snap in NC State’s eight ACC games in 2017 and helped pave the way for the Wolfpack’s back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers (Matthew Dayes in 2016, Hines in 2017).
“It’s been great to watch Will grow as a person and as a player,” Doeren said. “The ‘Band of Brothers’ is a special group and Will was an integral part of their success. Although we would love to have Will back for his senior season, we support his decision and wish him nothing but the best in his professional career.”