Oct. 5, 2013
By Jon Cooper
The phrase “gut check” is one loosely thrown around by players and coaches throughout the sports world.
Until about two month ago, Deon Hill might have been was one of them. He’ll never throw that particular phrase around again.
It was about a month ago that a literal check of what was inside Hill revealed the cause of constant abdominal pain that had been hindering him for weeks. It turns out he was suffering from Chron’s disease, an extremely painful inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which has no known cause.
“I noticed it around the beginning of football camp. My stomach used to hurt all the time,” said the redshirt junior A-Back. “I thought it was something that would just go away but the pain was persistent. I finally had enough of it and after the Elon game, I told [team physician] Dr. [Angelo] Galante and he checked me into a specialist.”
For the next four weeks, Hill was held out of practice, as contact might have caused life-threatening injury and doctors also needed wanted to see the effect of the medication they’d prescribed on Hill. Finally, following last Thursday’s Virginia Tech game Hill got the green light to resume team activities.
“I’m on my medication and everything’s fine,” he said. “The doctor said the inflammation’s gone down and everything is starting to look back to normal. That’s why I was able to come out and play today.”
On Saturday afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, Hill not only came out and played but was in the starting backfield and proved instrumental in the game-opening 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that gave Georgia Tech a 7-0 lead.
“At first I was a little nervous, being back on the field,” he said. “But I knew my teammates had faith in me and I had faith in my teammates. I just wanted to make plays and do what I could for the team.”
On Georgia Tech’s third play from scrimmage, a second-and-eight at its own 32, Hill came in motion from the right slot, took a pitch from quarterback Vad Lee, turned the corner and went for a 24-yard gain down before being taken down at the Miami 42. It was the longest run of Hill’s career. Five plays later he took off on a 12-yard jaunt that put the Yellow Jackets inside Miami’s red zone. They would capitalize four plays later.
Hill added another 11-yard run on the Yellow Jackets’ next series. That would be his final carry, giving him game totals of three carries for 47 yards, both career-bests. He also made a tackle on a kickoff early in the fourth quarter, following the TD that pulled the Jackets to within 24-23.
Tech never got any closer, eventually dropping a misleading 45-30 decision. While the loss was disappointing to Hill, his getting back on the field and contributing made the flight home a little easier.
“I feel like I wanted to give a little more out there but everything happens for a reason. I was a little winded playing special teams,” he said. “I’m just trying to help out the team in any way I can. Playing that many snaps, it was great to be back. I was a little winded at first but that all comes back, getting back in game shape.”
Hill will continue to do that by doing the extra running that he did while he was forced to sit. There are still seven games left to play and, ideally, a bowl game. His goal is to take advantage wherever and whenever he can, with so much football still to be played.
That was the same message that Head Coach Paul Johnson had for his team following the game.
“Coach said, hang in there,” he said. “We’ve got plenty more games, plenty more ball to play and plenty more games to win. Just don’t hang our heads.”
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