A fan of practical jokes, Xavier Hines once made sure all the lights in his house were off, put on a glow-in-the-dark alien mask and gave his mother quite a fright as he woke her from a deep sleep.
These days, Hines, a 6-0, 175-pound senior safety for Miami Belen, gives wide receivers a scare when they step inside his turf in the middle of the football field.
Hines, who had six interceptions last season and returned two for touchdowns, recently earned a scholarship to FIU, where the coaches are planning to use him at cornerback in 2013.
But the fact that Hines is going to college anywhere is a testament to his perseverance since he has battled dyslexia since grade school.
Never miss a local story.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that can impair a person’s reading fluency and comprehension.
“My elementary teachers told me that I wrote backwards, but they never told my parents,” Hines said.
Hines wasn’t diagnosed until his sophomore year at Belen, when a counselor at the school spotted a problem.
“The counselor told me to look into different things because I might have a learning disability,” Hines said. “When I was told what I had, I really didn’t know what it was in the beginning.
“My parents were just worried about being diagnosed so late.”
Since the discovery, Hines has made significant improvements, raising his grade-point average from 2.0 to 2.45. He is planning on elevating that number even more in the coming months.
“He’s very smart,” said coach Rich Stuart, who has led Belen to the state playoffs in 12 of the past 13 years. “He passed the entrance exam to [Belen], which isn’t easy, and he did that before he was diagnosed. Now, he’s doing even better.”
Hines, a third-year starter, leads a group of eight defensive starters who return from a team that finished 9-3 and made it to the Class 6A regional semifinals, where it lost to eventual state finalist Central.
Hines split time between cornerback and safety last season because of injuries to other players. But Stuart wants him in the middle of the field at safety full-time this season.
Stuart, who returns only one starter on offense, also will use Hines as a back-up running back. Hines hasn’t played much running back since his freshman year, when he ran for 1,500 yards on junior varsity.
“He’s a complete back,” Stuart said. “But we have to be smart in how we use him.”
Hines, who made second-team All-Dade last season and also had scholarship offers from Tulane and Temple, among others, will get plenty of work on defense, however.
“He has great hands and is very good in coverage,” Stuart said. “He is also a very physical safety and will come up and nail you.”
That can be scary for a receiver — even without the alien mask.