Tim Hume, a defensive lineman at Cheyney University the last four seasons, looks at the future and wants it to include football. Hume knows he can play the game. Cheyney won just a single game this season, but that didn't stop Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East coaches from naming Hume the league's defensive player of the year after he recorded 211/2 tackles for losses.
"I'd give up all the honors to make the playoffs," said Hume, now a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Award for NCAA Division II lineman of the year.
Cheyney's struggles adds to what Hume has accomplished. How many players of the year come from 1-10 teams? Hume's already passed through the narrowest path to get this far.
"Cheyney is the only school that showed any kind of [recruiting] interest, at any level," Hume said this week, sitting in the lobby of Cheyney's athletic offices.
There were reasons for the disinterest. Looking at a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive end who didn't have the SAT score to qualify and play as a freshman, schools moved on. Hume, who grew up in Harrisburg, went to West Chester University's camp each summer in high school. As a junior, he said, a West Chester coach told him he was too skinny to play for them. Millersville gave a look and said they couldn't even guarantee a walk-on spot.
"The Cheyney coach welcomed me with open arms," Hume said.
But even that assistant coach left for another job before Hume got to campus. Sitting out as a freshman, Hume said he dropped to 215 pounds. His first training camp, he was turned into a tight end, despite never playing offense at Susquehanna Township High. He was too skinny for the defensive line he was told again.
"I really wasn't feeling it, and I was trying to get over to defense," Hume said of playing tight end.
After several defensive linemen got injured, Hume got his shot.
"My second day, in a scrimmage, I had like two sacks and a pass deflection," Hume remembers. "I was in the starting lineup after the second day."
As a redshirt freshman that season, Hume made all-conference, going up against offensive tackles as much as 100 pounds heavier. He's put on almost 50 pounds since then, without losing the quick first step. This season, Hume had 71/2 tackles for losses against West Chester. (Yes, he admits playing that game with a chip on his shoulder.)
"Some games, you don't see a team get 71/2 tackles for a loss," said Cheyney interim head coach Kenneth Lockard, who pointed out that Hume, forced to play defensive tackle this season because of depth problems, clinched Cheyney's one win, over Lincoln, by chasing down Lincoln's quarterback and forcing a fumble, allowing Cheyney to run out the clock.
"He just works," Lockard said. "He would play himself to exhaustion, get like a couple of plays off, then keep going. He just plays with a big motor. He was fast."
Hume flew out to Minnesota this week to play in a Division II-III all-star game Saturday. He's been invited to play in a D-II all-star game next month in Virginia Beach, Va. And he'll be a showcase for pro scouts in March in Akron.
If Hume was a basketball player with a similar resume as a college senior, his future would be obvious. He'd probably go to Europe and make decent money playing in Belgium or Poland or England, or go to the Philippines or China, somewhere, working his way up the ladder. In football, there's the Canadian Football League and a myriad of indoor leagues, starting with the Arena League on top. The feeling is that he'll get his shot somewhere on the ladder.
"I have to get in the best shape of my life," Hume said. "Over the break, I have a trainer set up at home. I'm going to be working out a couple of times a day."
Being from the PSAC won't hold Hume back. There are 10 PSAC alumni in the NFL and plenty in other leagues. And if he hears he's too small - he's heard it before. His motor is still running.
"I don't want to be out of football," Hume said. "I won't give up. I won't get discouraged after one year."