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Hinds Looking for Payback

With his mother's work ethic to inspire him, the talented St. Bernard quarterback appreciates what he has.

September 02, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Rocky Hinds has all the natural ability and physical tools a high school quarterback could ask for, but the photograph taped inside his locker reminds him that nothing comes easy.

At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and with enough speed to win a Southern Section 100-meter division track title last spring, Hinds could coast through his senior season at Playa del Rey St. Bernard and still be one of the top quarterback recruits in the Southland.

But whenever he feels tired or lazy, a glance at the photo helps trigger his motivation. Pictured is his mother, Ernestine, the driving force behind an indelible work ethic Hinds brings to the field each day.

So before every practice he looks at the photo, blows a kiss to it, then bolts out of the locker room and gets to work.

"She works hard," Hinds said of his mother. "She makes me feel like I should too, so I work hard in football. I study hard. She shows me what it takes to make it."

Rocky, 17, the youngest of three children, is close with every member of his family. His father, Rocky Sr., attends and videotapes every game and at night they talk football into the wee hours of the morning. His sister lives in South Central Los Angeles, near Rocky and his parents. His brother is in the Navy, stationed in Oceanside, and Rocky speaks with him by phone nearly every day.

But Ernestine is the one who inspires Hinds.

She works two jobs, sometimes three, to help her family make ends meet. She wakes up each day at 4 a.m. to exercise, then makes breakfast for Rocky and drives him to school before showing up for her job as a receptionist at Dorsey High.

Later in the day, she serves as a receptionist at Inglewood Mortuary, and sometimes she drives limousines for extra cash. Her hectic schedule leaves Rocky little room for excuses about wind sprints and push-ups.

"She works all those jobs so she could afford to send me here and give me what I want," Hinds said. "I try to reward her the best I can."

Ernestine said she works as a matter of survival as well as a means to afford the nearly $500-a-month tuition at St. Bernard. Her intention wasn't to inspire Rocky to work hard, only to set a good example.

"I work in a mortuary," Ernestine said. "I see what can happen in the streets. If all it takes is a little extra effort on my part to keep him off the streets, then it's worth it to me."

Hinds is considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. His size, speed and throwing ability have earned him scholarship offers from more than a dozen schools. His top choices, in no particular order, are USC, Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington.

In his third year as a starter at St. Bernard, Hinds fits the mold of the modern-day NFL quarterback as exemplified by Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Daunte Culpepper: big, fast and strong-armed.

"If it was just one thing, it would be a little easier to contain him," said Culver City Coach Tom Salter, who has coached against Hinds each of the last two seasons and will face him again Sept. 12. "But he's got everything. His arm is accurate, and if he takes off, he can break three tackles and run for 50 yards. I've never seen a kid with his size and speed playing quarterback."

Last year, Hinds passed for 1,632 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 475 yards and five touchdowns. St. Bernard was 4-6-1 and lost in the first round of the Southern Section Division X playoffs.

His speed is even more impressive. He ran a 10.47 hand-timed 100 meters in a track meet, then won the section Division IV 100-meter title. He ran a 4.47 40-yard dash during a training camp this summer.

"He would be our best athlete at any position," St. Bernard Coach Greg Dixon said. "When he came here, he was a running back, but we needed a quarterback, and he said he could do it."

Hinds said an NFL career is one of his dreams, but so is earning a college degree. He wants to study accounting or business management -- anything that will help repay his mother.

"That motivates me a lot," Hinds said. "I want to make it so she won't have to worry about working anymore. I'll buy her a big house so she can just relax."

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