Coach's Take on RB Tim Hightower

Dusty Wittig catches up with Hightower's former running backs coach at Richmond, Charles Bankins. Wittig asks the coach about Hightower's off the field personality, his on the field leadership, and the secret behind 700-plus carries without losing a fumble. Find out what else Bankins says in this exclusive.

Dusty Wittig: In your own words, what kind of player is Tim Hightower?

Charles Bankins: He is a competitive player. He has got great work ethic and he wants to be good. Tim has always done a great job of keeping himself humble. He has great work ethic, is a humble player and loves to compete.

DW: What is the best part of Tim's game?

CB: The best part of his game is that he is a downhill runner. If he gets his shoulders squared up, there are a lot of people that are going to be in trouble. He also has great feet once he can get squared up. He will attack you with the old school dead leg move, and then go vertical right past you. Any time he is playing downhill is trouble for the defense.

DW: What are some things that Tim needs to work on in order to become successful in the NFL?

CB: Everyone can improve, but Tim needs to work on becoming a consistent pass catcher. Once running backs get into the league they need to work on two things the most, catching passes and pass blocking. He is pretty good at both, but he could improve on protecting the quarterback and also becoming a reliable outlet for the quarterback when he gets in trouble.

DW: What kind of guy is Hightower off of the field?

CB: Tim is a great guy. His teammates love him, and he loves to have fun. It was important for him to get a degree and he really focused on that. He is a determined kid. Every email or text message I get from him is purpose driven. He has a goal in his mind of what he wants out of life, and he works hard to get to that place. Tim is one of those guys who takes himself seriously, but not too seriously. He is just a great kid.

DW: How would you describe Tim's leadership skills?

CB: One thing I noticed when I first got here was that Hightower would always stay after practice to work. He was always working on getting better, trying to improve every aspect of his game. When I coached for the St. Louis Rams, I got to see how the elite players would practice and warm up for the games. Tim was always doing the same type of things. He would get out there early before games, and stay late after practices to make sure he was always prepared to give his best. But as for his leadership abilities, at the beginning of the season he was the only one out there early and staying late. But as the season progressed a few weeks, a couple of other running backs joined him. Then towards the end of the season, the whole running back squad was there with him. Half of those guys knew that they wouldn't see any playing time this season, but they still would follow Hightower out there every day.

CB: Against New Hampshire this year, Tim did a great job of taking his team on his back. We were down a couple touchdowns and then Tim found the end-zone on a run. Sure enough the next play he ran out onto the kick coverage team and was the first one down the field to make the tackle. Our next offensive series he scored on a long swing pass to give us the lead with 29 seconds left in the game. I told him all year that we are as good as you let us be. If you are out in front and leading us in the right direction, we are going to be ok. People are going to follow you. It's up to you whether you lead them to the good or bad. I told him that he had to be the man.

DW: What is your favorite memory of Hightower?

CB: Just seeing his growth throughout the year and how he has progressed as a player. It is fun for me to see how well he's done for himself. When I was coaching at Hampton, I had a guy who was the conference's leading rusher. When I first came here I told him it was going to be hard for me to coach the second or third best back in the conference because I was used to having the best.

DW: What has enabled Tim to have never lost a fumble in over 700 carries?

CB: Because he is such a downhill runner. Defenders are more worried about not getting run over instead of trying to go for the ball. When he gets a chance to square up, he can hit you so hard. I'm sure getting the ball is the last thing defenders are thinking about. I still think that he carries it too loosely, but apparently it's working for him. He does do a great job of covering up at the point of contact too.

DW: What is the best run you have seen Tim make?

CB: I have joked with Tim a lot about his lack of long speed. So I would have to say one of his best runs, and definitely the most surprising run he made would be against Northeastern. He ripped off a 98 yard touchdown run.

DW: How do you think Hightower will adjust to the NFL caliber talent he will be playing against?

CB: I think he always carried a chip on his shoulder because he has always kind of flown under the radar. Last season the Delaware running back got a lot more accolades than Tim, and everyone overlooked him. Now he is coming into another situation like that. He is going to work his hardest to be the guy down there, but facing that talent is going to be challenging for him. I think he will adjust well because he is a competitor, and he never gets too high on himself or too low. He will try to outwork everyone else around him. Mentally, I think he will be well prepared. We run the west coast pro-style offense and that has prepared him well for an NFL scheme.

DW: Is there anything that you would like to say about Tim?

CB: Tim is just a wonderful young man. He will be an asset to the Arizona community and he has a good heart. I wish him the best and look forward to him doing big things down there.

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