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May 1, 2014

Hard work paying off for Hill

A lot of prospects see their recruitment start to take off during this time of year, but there aren't many who have blown up the way North Little Rock (Ark.) wide receiver K.J. Hill has over the last few months.

The 6-foot, 185-pounder ended his impressive junior season with offers from Arkansas, Auburn and Oklahoma State, but ever since February he's been on a roll with new offers coming in on a weekly basis. In addition to the aforementioned schools, the receiver's list now includes the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and several others.

Hill's story is another example of how talent combined with hard work and patience can result in big-time opportunities.

"It all started when I realized God gave me a talent I could go far with," Hill told HawgSports.com. "My stepdad always told me, 'You can't go anywhere without work,' and ever since then it's been my drive to be successful. I found out the harder I worked, the more successful I got.

"I remember just last summer I was like, 'What am I not doing? Why ain't I getting the offers?' Everyone I knew was getting offers. I didn't know what it was, but now, it's just crazy to think about it."

Hill began his quest for Division I offers as an eighth-grader when he started working with former Razorback receiver J.J. Meadors, who runs one of the state's most well-known sports performance companies, Salt County SP in Bryant (Ark.). Meadors still trains Hill several times a week and he believes the receiver has what it takes to become a star player in college.

"The thing that stood out from the jump was his willingness to work and wanting to get better," said Meadors, who will open a new Salt County SP training facility in Bryant this summer. "He was never one of those kids that you had to tell to show up. Even when he was in the eighth grade at like 14 years old, he was setting up his own workouts. He was figuring out when he could come in. My first facility was right around the corner from Bryant High School, and he would go to basketball practice, get out, and then he would walk from there to my facility and do another session.

"After he played his ninth grade season he basically came in one day and said, 'Jay, if I can just get my speed down and polish up my routes, I'll be a D1 and I want you there at my signing day.' And now here he is. The kid can go anywhere. I can't say that about a lot of kids, but the reason I know he can go anywhere is because he's coachable and he's a hard worker."

Hill transferred to North Little Rock from Bryant midway through his sophomore year in hopes of receiving more college interest and winning state championships in both football and basketball. North Little Rock head football coach Brad Bolding has coached several Division I prospects through the years, and he believes Hill may have the most potential of them all.

"I try not to compare talent, but when you've had the players that we've had come through here at North Little Rock you can't help but compare kids," Bolding said. "Honestly, on the field, off the field, preparation for games, I think he's the best I've ever coached.

"To me, this is what puts him in a whole different stratosphere. I've been around the business my whole life and I've seen great players. But when you think like an NFL player as a 17 year-old, you're in a different stratosphere. He's a guy who loves watching film. People of his caliber, they all can run, catch, jump and score touchdowns. His deal is, he wants to break down coverages enough to know exactly how many steps it takes to get to that point, how many steps it takes to break it off to this point. He breaks it down like it's a physics problem."

Bolding said he's not sure where Hill will end up, but he thinks Hill's relationship with position coaches will play a key role in his final decision.

"I always tell colleges this is what's going to decide where he goes. He has already gone through and done the homework on every position coach from every school that has offered him," Bolding said. "He knows everything about that particular person. His thing isn't necessarily the style of offense. It's, 'How are you going to develop me every day to be the best I can be every time I take the field?'

"That's in film, weights, route-running, breaking down coverages, drills, offseason, all of it. It's not about this coach having 32 first-round draft picks, it's a lot deeper than that. It's about how they're going to develop him, whether they're running an I-formation or a spread with no running backs. Kids at his age just don't think like that, but he does."

Hill still has several more months to take visits and eventually narrow down his list, but he told HawgSports.com that Alabama, Arkansas and Florida are the three schools showing the most amount of interest as of late.

The two-sport athlete made a midweek trip to Fayetteville (Ark.) last Tuesday and still considers the Hogs one of his favorites.

"They're still up there. They've got to be in my top five," Hill said. "They sat me down and had a powerpoint presentation for me. I learned a lot of stuff. They matched me up with some guys who were in the combine and who had my height and weight, and they were just breaking it down about staying at home and being a hometown hero and stuff like that. I watched practice too, so they were showing me how they need me and how they want to use me in the offense."


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