"Let me tell you something," Hinton said Thursday afternoon at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center during a press conference introducing Meyer's new assistants. "I'm not very tall, but right now I feel really tall. It's a tremendous opportunity to get a chance to come back to your home state. … I am just as excited as I can be."
Hinton might not be the most, well, let's say vertically-gifted person in the world, but the native of Amanda, Ohio, is ready to help the Buckeyes stand out in the Big Ten and among national college football powers. The 30-year coaching veteran is back at Ohio State, the school where he got his master's degree in 1987 and where he worked with Meyer as graduate assistants under Earle Bruce, after spending the last two seasons as the running backs coach at Notre Dame.
When Hinton was asked if he would be interested in coming back to Columbus to work for Meyer, it was an easy decision. Hinton said Meyer asked him to join his staff at 10 p.m. on the Friday following Notre Dame's 18-14 loss against Florida State its bowl game.
"I can tell you by 10:01 I said yes," Hinton said.
Hinton's coaching career began in 1981 when he was a student assistant at Wilmington, his alma mater. From 1982-84, Hinton worked as the tight ends/wide receivers coach for the Quakers. Following that stint, Hinton came to Ohio State. He worked for the Buckeyes as a graduate assistant from 1985-86, and that's when he first met his new boss.
In fact, Hinton played a small hand in Meyer getting a chance to work with the Buckeyes. Hinton and then-OSU quarterbacks coach Tim Lichtenberg screened GA applications before eventually picking Meyer to come aboard in 1986.
"It was great to work with (Meyer) back in the 80s," Hinton said. "We always said someday this might happen (working together at OSU again). In our world, you can never know."
Hinton and Meyer went their separate ways following the '86 season. Meyer stayed at OSU through the end of Bruce's tenure in 1987, but Hinton left for the high school coaching ranks. Hinton's first stop was at Chillicothe Zane Trace, where he led the Pioneers from 1987-88. Following a year leading Van Wert, Hinton returned to college football, spending 1990-92 at Ohio University as the wide receivers coach in his first year and then the defensive line and strength coach from 1991-92.
Hinton traveled from Athens to Marion following the 1992 season. He went back to high school, taking over at Marion Harding and leading the Presidents to to five state playoff appearances during an 11-year tenure.
An offer to join former OSU assistant Mark Dantonio at the University of Cincinnati was too good of an offer for Hinton to ignore in 2004. He worked for Dantonio at UC from 2004-06 as the running backs coach and remained with the Bearcats under Brian Kelly when Dantonio moved on to Michigan State. Under Kelly at UC, Hinton coached linebackers (2007), running backs (2008) and was the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator in 2009.
When Kelly moved on to Notre Dame, Hinton joined him as the running backs coach from 2010-11.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world the past eight years," Hinton said. "I've been to an Orange Bowl and a Sugar Bowl (at Cincinnati). We won two Big East championships. I got to work with guys like Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly and now Urban Meyer.
"Who gets that ride in their life time?"
Now the ride has taken Hinton back to Ohio State. The 51-year-old said he is excited about the players he will be working with, including seniors-to-be in fullback Zach Boren and tight end Jake Stoneburner. Still, Hinton wants to have a fresh start going into spring practice.
"I haven't gone back and watched much film on these guys. As a matter of fact, I'm trying not to in some ways," Hinton said. "Now if Coach Meyer says we have to go back and really study all of our players so we know them better, I will. But if not, I really like going into a place and giving everyone a clean slate. We're going to develop in our offense and our system and I'm going to develop them within the context of my room the very best we can.
"Everybody has to feel like they have an equal shot. We've got some great players. I don't want to downplay the players we have like Zach and their experience and obviously with Jake Stoneburner and those guys. But I want that room to be competitive. I don't want anybody to believe that spot is theirs."
Hinton will also likely be a big help to Meyer when it comes to recruiting. The former preps coach was an active member Ohio High School Football Coaches Association, serving as an officer for six years and the vice president of the organization in 2003. He knows arguably better than anyone how important it is to foster relationships with current high school coaches in the Buckeye state.
"I always tell (high school coaches) I'm a high school coach who coaches college football," Hinton said. "I know what it's like to be in the grind and work hard and dedicate yourself to developing young men and young ladies in those schools and in the classroom. ... I think having those great relationships with those coaches and knowing them on a personal basis, not just a professional basis, helps."
For now, Hinton is eagerly awaiting spring football – and the time where he'll finally feel settled in at the WHAC.
"I'm kind of like the players. There's nothing familiar about what I'm doing on a daily basis," he said. "Half the time I walk by my own office. I swear I don't know where it is sometimes. I'm still trying to figure it all out. Today I couldn't get out of the indoor facility. I couldn't remember the (pass) code. It's been really interesting."