As a Recruit
Deon Hill was a 3-star, 5.5-rated running back by Rivals out of Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama. (Hill was high school teammates with fellow Yellow Jacket alum Orwin Smith, and their high school also produced Cord Howard.) He committed to Georgia Tech on January 24th (while on his official visit), shortly before signing day on February 3rd. Hill played running back at Central, and was so excited at the opportunity to run the ball in Coach Johnson's offense that he accepted his scholarship offer immediately.
On the Field
After redshirting his first season at school, Hill played in 2011 on special teams and in a limited capacity at A-Back. In fact, his only carry on the season went for a touchdown against Western Carolina.
As a sophomore in 2012, Hill again saw limited action on offense, finishing the season with 6 carries and 4 receptions. However, one of his receptions is a play I'll always remember. There was less than a minute left on Labor Day in Blacksburg, and the Jackets (wearing brand-new uniforms, including long-awaited white helmets) trailed Virginia Tech 14-10. New starting quarterback Tevin Washington stood in the pistol with the ball on the Hokies' 10-yard line, with Hill and B.J. Bostic at A-Back, split out a few yards to either side of the line. The two ran crossing routes, and I saw Hill come open on the left side of the formation. Washington did too, and threw a perfect pass to Hill, who scored a
game-winning go-ahead touchdown that was dripping of magic reminiscent of 2009. (Some other stuff happened later in that game, but we won't talk about that.) That moment is my earliest distinct memory of Deon Hill -- and it wouldn't be my last.
2013 saw Hill take on a larger role in the offense following the departure of Orwin Smith. Though Robert Godhigh was the go-to guy for carries at A-Back, Hill played a huge role in the offense's success as a blocker and had a nose for big plays when given the opportunity. On his 13 carries, he was third on the team in yards per carry (among those with at least 10 carries), and he was second among A-Backs in receiving yards and touchdowns. Hill accomplished all of this while missing 4 of 13 games...but we'll get to that.
As a senior in 2014, Deon Hill had his best season as a Yellow Jacket by far. His stats don't do his performance justice, but he did finish with 34 carries for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as the team's third-leading receiver (and top A-Back) with 10 catches for 178 yards and another huge, timely touchdown. This one, surely, is a little easier for you to remember. It was a sweltering September afternoon in Atlanta, the Jackets had blown a 35-10 halftime lead over Georgia Southern, and they trailed 38-35 with the clock winding down. They got a turnover on a brilliant play by Jamal Golden and KeShun Freeman, and were driving deep into Eagle territory with under a minute left. On second and 7, Hill lined up in his usual spot at A-Back to the left of Justin Thomas with Bostic in the formation once again (this time split out left, between Hill and Darren Waller). Thomas took the snap and narrowly avoided a blitzing Georgia Southern defender who shot straight through the line. He stumbled to the left and cut back, looking to pass. He found a receiver on a crossing route -- you know exactly who. Hill evaded a defender and stepped into the end zone, saving the day once more on a late reception.
He blocked, he ran, he caught, he ran back kicks -- Deon Hill did it all for Georgia Tech and was the model of consistency in his career, no matter how big or small the moment.
Off the Field
There's another part of Deon Hill that's not immediately obvious to football fans. Hill suffers from Crohn's Disease, a condition with gnarly symptoms that make everything difficult, not to mention high-level performance at the highest levels of college athletics. Remember in 2013, how he missed those four games? Yeah, his condition got so bad that it kept him out of games. In fact, it was completely uncertain through much of the offseason that he would even be back for 2014. However, Hill fought through, got treatments, and was able to make it back for his final season -- his best of his career, no less.
Also worth knowing is that, off the field, Hill is one of the most well-natured football players I've ever encountered. Whether it was cutting up on Twitter, goofing off with students on-campus, or taking over the Orange Bowl's media day, Hill is always seen with a smile on his face and having fun with those around him.
Hill graduated with a degree in business administration in December.
Thanks for your work and dedication, Deon, and congratulations on a fantastic career!