Sometimes life teaches a person the most important lessons in the least significant ways.
Just ask Stuart Hines, one of the stars on Kentucky's veteran offensive line this season.
Ask anyone who knows Hines well and they'll tell you that he's one of the good guys, that he does things the right way, that he's a role model for those around him both on the field and off.
"He does everything right," UK Coach Joker Phillips said of his senior from Bowling Green.
"There's nothing phony about him," offensive line coach Mike Summers offered.
Or ask teammate Matt Smith, UK's starting center.
"He's just an all-around good guy," Smith said.
Hines — all 6 feet, 4 inches and 295 pounds of him — blushes slightly when told of the things people have said about him.
He gives a sheepish grin when told that Phillips referred to him this fall as one of the faces of Kentucky's program.
"I'm definitely flattered he said that," Hines said. "I just try to come out here and work hard every day, go to class, get good grades and do stuff off the field as well."
But some lessons aren't learned on the football field or in the classroom.
Some are learned at 8 years old.
When pressed for something, anything Hines did to veer from his good-guy path, he pauses.
"I did a couple things, but overall I tried to stay out of trouble most the time," he said.
Then he smiles broadly and says, "OK, there's one story."
One night when he was around 8, his parents sent him upstairs to take a shower. In the bathroom, he started messing around with his dad's electric razor, pretending to shave.
Hines' hand slipped.
"I cut a chunk out of my hair," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, crap.'"
He got in the shower and kept quiet about it.
Later that night, his mother Denita asked her only child about the missing hair.
"What are you talking about?" he recalled saying.
When she pointed to his missing locks, he said, "I don't know. It must've been the barber or something."
His mother, an English and journalism teacher at the high school, didn't call his bluff.
Instead she'd randomly bring it up every day for a few days.
"Gosh, I can't believe how badly the barber messed up your hair," he remembers Denita saying.
A few days later, she coaxed the confession out of him, not like a detective, but like a mother.
"She starts talking about how important it is to always be honest and tell the truth and stuff, so she got me with the guilt card," Hines said. "I caved. They weren't mad that I cut my hair. They were mad that I lied about it."
"Important lesson learned there."
Lessons learned abroad
Those are the types of lessons he took with him to Bowling Green High School, where he was rated as one of the nation's top 25 offensive tackles.
"He's been a mature kid beyond his years from the time he entered high school," Purples Coach Kevin Wallace said. "Mature in terms of understanding the importance of doing things the right way, doing your best, trying to be a leader. All of those things are really important to him."
Hines has never been a true vocal leader. He's not the type of player who will get up in another player's face. He just goes about his business and tries to help others.
It's tough to think of an offensive lineman as gentle, but Hines is, said Smith, the center.
"When he's out on the field, he's kind of quiet," Smith said. "He'll hit you in the mouth, but he's not going to trash talk you. He's not going to say anything to you."
When Hines does have something to say, he can make a rowdy locker room go completely silent.
"When he stands in front of the team and says something, they all stop and listen because they know he's put in the time and he lives the things he talks about," Summers said.
Hines said he doesn't really know any other way to be.
"You can't be a guy who's telling people to do it the right way if you're late for meetings or missing class or getting bad grades," he said. "You can't expect other people to follow you."
Hines already has a degree in finance and is working on a second degree in business management now. He's been on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor roll for three straight years.
"He does everything right: academically, socially, football, and if he does make a mistake in football, he does everything he possibly can to try to get that corrected," his head coach said. "We want a guy like Stuart Hines being the face of this program."
Phillips learned even more about his two-year starting guard when he invited Hines and linebacker Danny Trevathan to go on a trip to Ethiopia in May.
There, Hines stood out like a sore thumb.
"I must have looked like a tall freak show to them," he said.
But the "freak show" took valuable lessons away with him.
He saw poverty and a leper colony. He saw people combing through a nearby dump to find food or things they could sell for food.
"You realize how much you take for granted every single day," Hines said.
He saw a school where some of the local children were kept out by a tall, metal fence because there weren't enough resources for all of them.
"That was so tough to deal with," Hines said.
Through that trip to Ethiopia, Hines continued to learn life's lessons, the same kinds of lessons he started learning as a young kid in Bowling Green.
They're life lessons that will continue to shape him.
"It had a huge impact on all of us," Phillips said. "If you have any heart, you can't go over there and it not have an impact on you. Stuart Hines has a huge heart, so it made a huge impact on him."