Sep. 24—Walk out onto St. Croix Central's practice field and you might have a difficult time locating the Panthers' four-star offensive lineman recruit.
It should be simple to spot the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Carson Hinzman. He's the biggest guy on the field. But by the time you see the No. 75 on his helmet, your first thought is, 'That can't be him.'
There is no way that kid is 280 pounds.
"You look at him, you'd think he's maybe 240, 250," St. Croix Central coach John Tackmann said. "You don't see it, just the way he carries his weight. That's what, I think, at the next level, they love the most. He has the athleticism, he has the size and the frame to put on even more."
About 60 pounds more, Tackmann estimated. It's a scary thought to add that much more girth to an athlete who can dunk a basketball and jump onto a 40-inch box.
Perhaps that's why he has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Iowa and the Gophers, among others. There is a fear that if you don't get him, you'll have to go up against him.
Hinzman is the 135th-ranked recruit nationally in the Class of 2022, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and the fourth-ranked interior offensive lineman.
Hinzman fondly remembers watching and looking up to high school varsity football players when he was a kid, now he's the one others idolize.
A four-year starter on the Panthers' defensive line — he started for the St. Croix Central team that reached the state title game in 2018 — and a three-year starter on offense, Hinzman has been terrorizing opposing Western Wisconsin fronts for years.
That work was recognized this week, when Hinzman was officially welcomed to the All-American bowl, an all-star game played in San Antonio in January that features the country's top 100 recruits and airs live on NBC.
"It's a good chance to go do that and represent myself, my family and the community we've got here," Hinzman said. "I think it's pretty cool. It'll be a good opportunity."
Hinzman represents your stereotypical Western Wisconsin offensive lineman. Just ask him. He grew up working on a farm, lifting hay bales and doing other chores.
"A lot of the grit and the stuff I learned, a lot (came from) the farm work," he said. "It sounds super, super cliche, to have a farm kid from Midwestern Wisconsin, but that's kind of how it is. It's really cliche. That's pretty much what I credit most of it to."
Still, when Hinzman arrived at the Hammond, Wis., high school as a freshman, he had hoped to work hard through his senior year to potentially receive a scholarship offer.
Instead, his first offer — from Iowa — came during his freshman year.
"I was like 'That was crazy,' " he said. "It was like 6 in the morning and my mom was crying. It was pretty cool."
The offers haven't stopped rolling in since. Tackmann recalled getting a phone call from a number he didn't recognize one night as he pulled into his driveway. It was Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. Hinzman took official visits to Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa this summer, and the general consensus is he's going to select either the Badgers or the Buckeyes.
Hinzman hopes to make his official decision official in early October.
"It's been a really fun journey, and I've really enjoyed it. I know people that haven't really gotten the opportunity to have this journey, that have worked really hard for it and haven't gotten the chance, so just really honored and blessed to be here," he said. "It's been fun, and I can't complain at all. No bad things about it. It's been long, but it's getting to the end of it all, so I'm pretty excited."
Tackmann noted Hinzman has remained humble throughout his recruiting process. Off the field, Hinzman is gentle and kind. On it, he's an animal. The most satisfying thing as a lineman, Hinzman noted, is when you line up across from an opponent and see their eyes drop.
"Because you know, 'OK, I have you the entire night. You're mine now,' " he said. "That has to be my favorite thing. It's just so satisfying. You just know, 'He's done.' It's obviously a lot of work to get to that. You've got to punish the dude, but that's definitely the best feeling."
But Hinzman isn't only a product of brute force. He has grown intellectually over the years, watching film and understanding hand use, weight distribution and the tendencies of others. Being coachable is one of his many strengths, along with his athleticism, fast feet and commitment to finishing each play.
All will serve him well at the next level, wherever that may be.
"I think he's got all the intangibles. He's got the work ethic, he's got the drive," Tackmann said. "He loves the process more than he loves the game, and in order to succeed at the next level, you've got to love the grind more than you love the show. That's the next thing for him, where he's poised, he's set, he's ready to go, and now it's just finding where's that final fit."