It could very well go down as one of the most diverse and multi-faceted performances in the history of the NJSIAA football playoffs, coming from, without question, the best all-around talent to ever grace the fields of Hudson County high school football, even if he’s only a junior.
Every time St. Peter’s Prep’s brilliant Will Hill takes the field, he never ceases to amaze the onlookers. He plays a multitude of positions, lining up at quarterback, running back and wide receiver on offense and free safety, strong safety, and cornerback on defense.
And whatever Hill does, he does it extremely well.
“He’s going to make plays no matter where he’s playing,” said St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen. “We just had to make sure to be able to highlight his athleticism in terms of what he can do. He truly is a special player. You get players like this once in a lifetime. He does so many things well. I never thought I’d get a chance to coach a kid like this.”
Last year, right before the Marauders faced Don Bosco Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 state title game in Giants Stadium, Hansen unleashed Hill at wide receiver, utilizing the talents of Shawn Boysen at quarterback. The move caught the DBP coaching staff totally off-guard, not figuring to see Hill at the flanker position.
However, before the 2006 season began, Hansen told Hill that he would see action at all the different positions.
“We had another quarterback (Boysen) who is terrific,” Hansen said. “We figured that if we could get Will into different places, he could do different things. We wanted to accentuate his athletic abilities. We don’t do it all day. He’s still basically a quarterback. But we do it enough to give us a different look. He’s a tough out in terms of match-ups.”
Hill said that he didn’t mind being cast into the role of being the versatile performer.
“I actually like it a lot,” Hill said. “It shows that I can do more than just one thing. He (Hansen) tried me out at different things and I really felt comfortable doing it. When I’m at receiver, it opens up our running game with Shariff (Harris) and our other receivers. I like being multi-talented and doing different things.”
Hill has been mastering the art of diversification all season for the Marauders, who are the No. 1 team in New Jersey and ranked among the top 15 teams in the country by several different publications and polls.
When the time came to start defense of the Non-Public Group 4 state crown the Marauders won a year ago last weekend against Bergen Catholic, Hill was ready for the challenge.
Two years ago, when Hill was a freshman, he started at free safety in a state playoff loss to Bergen Catholic, when BC hammered the Marauders, 45-20.
“That game has haunted me for two years,” Hill said. “I wanted to face them again for a long while. I figured this was my chance to get that back, for me, for Coach Hansen. I told him we were going to get it. We were really pumped up for it.”
Hill was more than pumped for the Bergen Catholic showdown. He was ready to make history.
Hill completed four passes for 103 yards at quarterback, two of which went for touchdowns. He rushed eight times for 120 yards and scored a touchdown on the ground. He also caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Boysen. Not to be undone, Hill also collected seven tackles on defense and made a brilliant interception.
Yes, all in one afternoon. For most players, that would be a career. For the incredible Will Hill, it was one half of a football game.
After it was said and done, the Marauders had a convincing 63-14 victory and the quest for a second straight state title was on, thanks to the kid who has about as many nicknames as he plays positions.
For his efforts, Hill has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week. Hill also received the honor once last season, but if he continues with performances like the one last Saturday, the award just might have to be renamed in his honor.
Even though he’s a junior, Hill is already being called as the best player in the state and some consider him the best Prep player ever, this reporter included.
“I think those are all great compliments,” Hill said. “I’m just trying to stay humble and focus on what’s ahead. We have a goal in mind, which is getting Ring No. 2. That’s what keeps me motivated. That’s what we’re all going for now.”
Incredibly, Hill thinks he can actually perform at a higher level than he did last Saturday, when he completed TD passes of 34 yards to Joe Valenti and 23 yards to Michael Clarke and scored on a 40-yard TD run – all in the first quarter.
“I know I can do better,” Hill said. “I still think I can do better.”
“He’s a great student of the game,” Hansen said. “He wants to improve. He’s driven to improve. He has a tremendous will to win and that’s what separates him from everyone else. Then he goes out and makes plays that make you just shake your head and say, ‘The kid’s unbelievable.’ When he does his thing, he lifts everyone else up and makes everyone else around him better. That’s the greatest compliment you can give a player.”
Added Hansen, “He’s like the football version of Jason Kidd. He runs the show, distributes the ball, gets everyone involved. I mean, he does so many things when plays break down. You can think you have things all figured out and then he just takes off on his own. The two touchdown passes were on broken plays. You can’t have an answer for that. You can’t defend that. That’s what makes him so dangerous. When he improvises, there is no answer. And that’s what he does well.”
Most of the attention Hill gets is as an offensive player, but he’s destined to be a standout on the college level as a free safety.
“It’s where he’s going to make money down the road,” Hansen said. “It’s where he’s being recruited the most by colleges, on the defensive side. The University of Florida wants him as a quarterback. He can go anywhere he wants, but I think he wants to be stroked as a defensive player.”
“I want to be recruited as a defensive back,” Hill said. “If someone wants me for another position, like quarterback or wide receiver, I will take it under consideration. But when schools look at me, I want them to look at me as a safety.”
“He does amazing things on defense as well,” Hansen said. “On his interception, he had to jump about nine feet in the air to get it and he could have scored on that as well. He is rangy and covers so much ground. Plus, he’ll hit anyone. When you consider everything, he’s made an impact on our program like no other and he still has a lot of football to play with us. I don’t want to jump the gun, but he has no peers.”
And it’s also safe to say, that barring injury, this is a young man who will play for pay on Sundays somewhere down the road. Mark it down now. He’s destined for the NFL.
When Hill makes that quantum leap into professional football, it will be interesting to see under what nickname. He’s been known as “Binky” by his family since infancy. This year, he added “Slash,” to his repertoire, because of the multitude of positions, like quarterback/running back/wide receiver, a la Kordell Stewart a few years back.
But there’s one name that keeps coming back, that being “Will the Thrill.” Last year, Hill didn’t care much for the name, because Hansen used to use it in mocking fashion. Not anymore.
“I have no choice with that name,” Hill said. “It’s been placed on me. I’m kind of used to it now. I really don’t care what they call me.”
Even Hansen has bought into the “Thrill” name.
“Now, I believe it,” Hansen said. “He’s the ‘Thrill.’ I am on board with it.”
And Hansen will continue to enjoy performances like last Saturday, because soon enough, the “Thrill” will be gone – to bigger and better things down the road. – Jim Hague