It’s not often you see a player sign at a Football Bowl Subdivision school, then switch to a different position before his senior year of high school.
But that’s what Jonah Hill did for the Hillcrest Hornets in 2012. An H-back/tight end his junior year, Hill put up good numbers (39 catches for 693 yards and touchdowns) and his camp performances and measurables (6’3”, 240 lbs.) caught the eye of college coaches.
He signed with Arkansas State last July. But heading into preseason camp that fall, the Hornets needed to find a new starting quarterback.
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That’s when coach John Beckham talked to Hill about moving to QB for the season.
“I knew (former starter) Matt Futrell was leaving and I knew I could do it,” Hill said. “When (Beckham) confronted me about it, I wasn’t displeased, but I knew it would be another position change for me.
“I only got to play tight end for one year, for me that kind of sucked. To never play one position in high school, that’s frustrating. But coach (Beckham) brought it up, I took it into consideration, and I did it because it was best for the team and was going to help us win.”
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Hill started his high school career at Marshfield – as a quarterback. He switched to more of a RB/FB role his sophomore year before moving to Hillcrest.
Hill led the Hornets to a 10-2 record and the Class 4 sectionals last fall, where they lost to Webb City. He went 131-for-217 for 1,872 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“I’m not going to tell you I’m the smartest quarterback ever; our wristbands tell you what to run and where the routes are going,” Hill said.
The Hornets modified their offense to fit Hill’s rugged, physical style. He rushed for over 800 yards and 15 touchdowns.
PHOTOS: HILLCREST ENDS PARKVIEW'S UNDEFEATED SEASON
Hill dealt with injuries as the season progressed, including setbacks to both ankles.
“I don’t like to make excuses, but I feel like I could’ve had a different season had it not been for the injuries,” he said. “Football, your mentality is 95 percent of your game. You have to have the mental focus to take that hit. With the injuries, I had to try not having the mindset where, ‘If I take this hit from behind then I might not make it to the next play.’”
Hill said the Hornets wanted to prove they’d still be contenders even with the departure of the great Dorial Green-Beckham to Mizzou.
“Originally, that wasn’t our motivation,” he said. “The motivation came from all the players who wanted to have another winning season. Then, in the preseason, doing interviews and stuff, all the attention was about the loss of Dorial. He’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but the focus should’ve been about our team. It should’ve been about Hillcrest.
“I think the huge motivation came when that Pigskin Preview magazine came out. It had us predicted at going 4-6.”
That fall, players like Hill, Juwan Johnson, Matt Rush and C.J. Hubbard got their turn in the spotlight and turned into stars. Hill said it’s a season he’ll never forget.
“I loved that offense,” Hill said. “As an H-back you get to do four or five different things. This year at quarterback, I got to do four or five different things each game – read option, read the secondary, throw and run. It was my all-time favorite season of high school football.”
Getting to know Jonah Hill
Favorite athlete: LaDainian Tomlinson
Favorite team: San Francisco 49ers
Pregame superstition: Always have a brownie at lunch on game day
Favorite movie: The Avengers
Favorite musical artist: Queen
Favorite actor: Will Ferrell
Favorite athletic memory: “The hit” junior year against Glendale. People that were there will know what I’m talking about.
Song on your iPod people wouldn't expect: Call Me Maybe
Hidden talent: Juggling