By Jack Williams
Fourteen years after his professional football career ended, former Georgia Tech offensive lineman Kent Hill still is throwing his weight around for the National Football League. He did it in super fashion on Super Bowl week.
Hill and a host of other former NFL stars spent five days as guests of the USO, visiting United States military bases in Korea, drumming up additional interest in the Super Bowl and answering questions in general about the NFL.
“It’s an annual event during Super Bowl week,” Hill said. “Last year, a group of us went to Kosovo to talk football with personnel at the military bases. It’s really impressive to see the job our military does.”
Hill came home to Fayetteville, Ga., just in time for another big event in his life. Still getting over jet lag, he looks forward to his induction Saturday night into The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame at the JW Marriott in Atlanta.
“To be a part of something like that is really special,” Hill said. “I’m very proud to be honored in that way.”
Hill certainly earned the Hall of Fame honor. A member of powerhouse teams in his hometown, Americus, Ga., he went on to play offensive tackle on Georgia Tech teams from 1975 through 1978. He was honorable mention All-America and capped his college career by helping guide the Yellow Jackets to the 1978 Peach Bowl.
Hill then starred in the NFL for nine seasons, first with the Los Angeles Rams and then the Houston Oilers. He was a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and was first team all-NFL three times (1980, 1982 and 1983).
“I actually was a much better player in the pros than I was at Georgia Tech,” Hill says. “That’s due mainly to the coaching I received at Tech. The thing that will always stand out is how well Coach Pepper Rodgers and his staff, especially Coach Bud Casey, prepared me. They took a guy out of Americus who had some potential and helped develop me as a player.”
Tech fans remember Hill as the man who paved the way for the running of Eddie Lee Ivery who rushed for 3,517 career yards, including a single game NCAA record 356 against Air Force.
When his days at Tech were over, Hill was drafted in the first round by the Rams, the 26th pick overall. “Being drafted that high was an honor in itself,” he says. “That is something just about as special as making All-Pro or the Pro Bowl.”
Strangely, Hill’s most cherished moment in the NFL came in his very first season. With Hill starting every game, the Rams went all the way to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Because I was so young I don’t think I fully appreciated the significance of going to the Super Bowl at the time,” Hill recalls. “It has grown on me through the years. I know now how tough it is to get to that game.”
Following his time in the NFL, Hill returned to Georgia Tech as Director of Student Athlete Development, a position he held from from1989 until 1998. “It was an enjoyable time,” Hill says. “I know when I was a player, I needed a lot of guidance. There were a lot of things I just didn’t know. In my job at Tech, I was able to offer some of that guidance.”
Hill says, in fact, that the job at Tech helped prepare him for the work he does today as a consultant with Pacific Institute. “We go in and try to help organizations increase the effectiveness of their personnel,” he said. “We determine what the various companies want to achieve and then try to lead them there.”
Hill says he is now an avid fan of Georgia Tech football. “I have season tickets and attend every home game,” he said. “I also see my former Tech teammates as often as possible, some, of course, more than others. We get together every Memorial Day for a softball game. That’s something we started doing when we were players and it has developed into an annual event.”
A divorced man, Hill devotes much of his time to his 10-year-old son, Sterling, whom he says “thinks he is quite an athlete.” Sterling, however, likes basketball more than football.
Hill also likes hunting and four-wheeling and wishes he had more time to pursue both those hobbies.
One thing he makes time for on a regular basis is exercising-and he has the frame to prove it. Today, he weighs 260, five pounds less than he weighed as a pro and a Georgia Tech star.
“I am into aerobics in a big way,” he said. “Staying in shape is my lifestyle.”
Hill now turns his attention to the Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday bight. Joining him as inductees for 2001 are Teresa Edwards, Olympic basketball champion; Evander Hollyfield, three-time World Heavyweight boxing champion; Angel Martino, swimming gold medalist in two Olympic Games; Jim Wilson, University of Georgia football All-America; and Mike Wilson, 12-year veteran of the NFL.
It’s an impressive group and Hill stands tall among the inductees as a representative of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.