Jordan Hill was getting something to drink at halftime of last Saturday’s Blue-White game when his name blared over the Beaver Stadium PA system.
As part of Penn State’s annual spring honors, Hill was recognized with the Jim O’Hora Award, given to the defensive player who “best demonstrated exemplary conduct, loyalty, interest, attitude and improvement during spring practice.”
“I didn’t know to go out there on the field and get it,” Hill said after the game, clutching the miniature statue of the Nittany Lion shrine he received. “So I mean, that was definitely surprising.”
Hill, a rising junior, has opened eyes this spring with his hustle and energy. Right now, Hill is slated to start alongside Devon Still at defensive tackle next season, forming a potentially dangerous middle of the defensive line.
Hill played in every game as a backup last season, while Still and Ollie Ogbu started at defensive tackle. The Steelton native was fourth on the defensive line with 36 tackles in 2010, including two tackles for loss. He also played in Penn State’s final eight games as a true freshman in 2009.
This spring, though, Hill has elevated his game. He is listed at 6-foot-1 and 316 pounds, but he said on Saturday he has been eating a little better and now weighs 304 pounds. Even Hill admitted he can tell a difference in his game when watching film.
Safety Malcolm Willis said Hill is much quicker now, and added that his teammate has shown he can perform as he did last year, but on every down.
“He’s grown so much,” Willis said. “He’s the same age as me but you can tell that he’s a grown man out there on the field.”
Steelton-Highspire High School coach Rob Deibler has a favorite story about Hill from when the lineman was in eighth grade. Hill, who Deibler said was larger than most kids at that age, returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.
“It was kind of like ‘Who’s this kid?’ From that point on, I said we’ve got somebody special here,” Deibler said.
Hill played all over the field for Deibler, starting at center as a freshman and playing fullback and linebacker in 10th grade. Hill, who helped Steelton win the state championship his junior and senior years, eventually moved to the defensive line.
Deibler said Hill is the nicest kid in the world off the field, but on the field he’s very intense.
“I’ve never coached a kid that just every down of practice, every down of a game that just went at it with his intensity,” Deibler said.
Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley echoed Deibler’s comments about Hill’s hustle on Saturday, and said “he doesn’t have a bad practice.”
Though Hill might not be known by many Penn State fans just yet, his high school coach said he doesn’t expect that to be the case a year from now.
“Not even in the state of Pennsylvania, but nationally, I think he’s gonna get recognized, and real quick, this next year,” Deibler said “That’s how good I think he is, but that’s also how good I know the Penn State coaches think he is. They know. They just think he’s a special kid.”