April 15, 2010
By Matt Winklejohn
Stephen Hill, poised to continue Georgia Tech’s burgeoning reputation as a wide receiver factory of sorts, is leaving the football team Thursday morning. He’s leaving town, in fact.
No worries for Head Coach Paul Johnson, though.
The rising sophomore does double duty on The Flats, and he’s traveling to Clemson to compete in the long jump in the ACC Track & Field outdoor championships.
Hill’s moonlighting will cause him to miss only Friday’s football practice, as the long jump competition will be Friday and he’ll return to campus soon thereafter. Football, in fact, has so far made long jumping more difficult than it was when he was a multi-sport star at Lithonia High.
He didn’t participate in the indoor season, and several weeks ago when he joined the team to begin practicing for the outdoor season, Hill had an immediate reaction: launching a small cargo plane is a tad different than sending a fighter plane into the air.
To put it more literally, his reaction went something like this: “Wow!” he said. “I’m heavier. I was 185 [pounds last spring, while still in high school]; now I’m 205. I noticed it a lot. I can move running-wise, but getting up off that one foot . . . I still got the same ups in basketball because that’s off two feet, but that one-foot jump is pretty hard.”
Johnson is familiar with two-sport athletes. He’s allowing A-back Roddy Jones to play baseball with the stipulation that unless he becomes a regular, or something close to it, on the diamond, he’s not to miss any work with the football team.
In Hill’s case, since spring football practices are on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, he has for the most part practiced track on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That hasn’t been much different than in high school.
“I did a lot of sprinting [in high school], and I just did long jump two days like I am now,” he said.
Johnson being Johnson, he’s found time to rib Hill, who played in 13 games and started once last season. He had six receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown and rushed five times for 84 yards and a score and showed signs that he can continue Tech’s recent Calvin Johnson-Demaryius Thomas run of sterling wideouts.
As for the jumping… much as Jones – like Hill a probable starter for the football Jackets – has worked in a reserve role in baseball as it is clear that football is his “day job,” Hill has not yet torn up the track.
As a senior at Miller Grove High School near Lithonia (Ga.), Hill was an elite long-jumper. His state record-setting jump of 25 feet, 8 ¾ inches would have placed him first in the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Had Hill participated in the most recent Olympic Games, a leap of 25’8 ¾” would have tied for ninth.
“I haven’t jumped farther than I did in high school,” he said. “I jumped [25 feet, 8 inches in high school], and I jumped like 24-8 (third-best in the ACC this spring) out there and Coach Johnson is telling me I lost to a girl.”
What does that mean?
“I have no idea,” the chuckling young wideout said of Johnson’s commentary. Hill has a much better grasp on matters football. Almost disarmingly composed – he calmly first addressed an interviewer by saying, “Greetings . . . ” Hill sounded after Wednesday’s practice like he can hardly wait for football season.
“It’s going to look a lot different,” he said. “We put a little bit of the [shot]gun in. I’m a lot more comfortable.”
And he has no interest in being the next Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas.
“I’m interested in being better than Bay Bay,” Hill said. “I’m faster. He has a lot of strength. I’m trying to get as big.”
Hey, that won’t help his jumping career, but . . .