Nov. 12, 2014
By Steve DiMatteo
There were plenty of times over the past two years when Deon Hill, one of the nominees for the 2014 Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award, thought he’d never be able to play football again.
But that never stopped him from trying.
The 6-0, 194-pound redshirt senior A-back at Georgia Tech was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease last season when he reported having severe stomach cramps and had to be hospitalized.
“First thing I thought was, was I going to be able to play ball again or was I going to feel normal?” Hill said.
For a while, it didn’t always feel like those things would be possible for the running back. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and it caused Hill to miss four games in 2013.
And despite taking anti-inflammatory medicine since his diagnosis, Hill had to miss spring practice this year to finally have surgery to treat the persistent conditions.
“I had a few flare-ups and I was like, ‘Man, maybe I’m stretching myself too much, maybe my body is stretched too much,’” Hill said. “It ran across my mind a couple times. The surgery kind of gave me hope.”
That hope has translated not just into the ability to play, but to contribute, all season. In 2014, Hill has 18 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns to go along with seven catches for 138 yards and a score, which was a 13-yard TD catch with 23 seconds remaining in a 42-38 victory over Georgia Southern on September 13.
For a condition that nearly prevented him from ever playing again, Hill is utilizing this season as a way to motivate his teammates. But it goes beyond even the Yellow Jackets football team. A lot of people, especially fans on Twitter and those dealing with Crohn’s disease around the country, have let Hill know how much his story means to them.
“I always try to keep guys going and let them know it’s a blessing to be able to play the game,” Hill said. “It feels good to be able to come back out and try to inspire people, try to keep people going and lifted up.”
Requirements for nomination to the Courage Award include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster, or living through hardship.
Nomination for an award like this is certainly not the path Hill expected his collegiate career would take, but now it’s given him a new perspective that he’ll carry with him after his time at Georgia Tech is done.
“You never know who’s watching you, who’s paying attention,” Hill said. “I feel like (being nominated) is a big honor and I don’t take it for granted at all. I just want to let everybody know that no matter what problems they’re going through – just don’t give up.”
“Just keep fighting, keep pushing.”