Commentary

No challenge too big

Kenny Hill keeps working, getting better and now wants another ring

Originally Published: April 3, 2012
By Damon Sayles | ESPN RecruitingNation

SOUTHLAKE, Texas -- Every now and then, Southlake (Texas) Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill will take a look at the state championship ring in his room. It's kind of hard not to stare at it and it serves as a constant reminder of the hard work and multiple sacrifices Hill's had to endure -- the kind of work that has made him a definite player to watch as his recruiting process heats up.

There are Super Bowl rings that take a step back from what Hill and the other Carroll players and coaches received. The face features 40 diamonds around and a part of the school's "SC" logo -- which resembles the USC athletics logo. Around the border are eight emeralds, which represent the school's eight championships. Carroll and Celina (Texas) are the only Texas public high schools with eight titles in their school histories.

Kenny Hill
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comQB Kenny Hill uses his state championship ring as motivation to keep working so he can get another one.
"When I first got [the ring], I was like, 'Man, we actually did it,'" Hill said. "Now when I look at it, I say, 'A second one would be even better.'"

Complacency isn't one of Hill's better traits. The son of Ken Hill, who pitched 14 seasons in the major leagues for seven teams, including making the All-Star team in 1994 and pitching in the World Series in 1995 with the Cleveland Indians, Kenny doesn't slow down. In addition to his exploits on the football field, Kenny also excels on the diamond, batting cleanup and playing third base.

He's always on the go, always trying to improve. Just like his dad suggested.

"He's been telling me to keep working hard, because you can never be good enough," he said. "You can always be getting better at something. If you're not working, someone else is. Throughout the recruiting process, he's helped me to keep things simple and to keep my head clear.

"Whether it's a Super Bowl or the World Series, it's a lot of work, and he knows how to get there. That's what I'm working for."

Hill has offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Houston, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Missouri, Utah and Kansas State, while LSU, Oklahoma and Stanford have expressed interest. Hill said everyone is on even turf and he doesn't have any visits scheduled during baseball season.

Ken Hill said it's his son's composure and accuracy that make him such an attractive college football prospect. Kenny's mother, Lorrie, added that his overall drive is what will get him far.

"If Kenny's out there, he's going to make it happen," Lorrie said. "Quit is not in his vocabulary. He's determined and focused, and he's going to take the team with him."

A prime example of that came during the Texas state semifinal playoff game against FAB 50 team Dallas Skyline. Carroll trailed by 10 with less than 90 seconds left to play, but Hill led the Dragons to two touchdowns in that span. He scored both TDs on run plays, including a 35-yard game winner with 46 seconds remaining.

Hill's drive off the field is just as competitive. He's the class president for the Young Men's Service League and active with multiple community service projects. He is a part of a group that helped bring Play It Forward, a non-profit program that provides sports equipment and financial support to underprivileged children, to the city of Southlake.

And he does all this while managing a 3.2 grade point average.

"He's able to balance all the demands on his time -- athletics, academics, community service, church and family -- and he does it very well," Lorrie said. "He enjoys a challenge, and balancing all that he does is a challenge."

It's obvious he enjoys a good challenge. Entering his sophomore year, he was the No. 3 quarterback and expected to be a starter for Carroll's junior varsity. By the time the 2010 season started, he was being talked about as the next big thing.

Since taking over the starting role midway through his sophomore season, Hill is 23-1 as a starter and will enter his senior season with nearly 4,800 passing yards, 1,800 rushing yards and 71 total touchdowns (40 passing). In 2011, he threw for 3,006 yards and 25 touchdowns and completed 63 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,383 yards and 24 touchdowns in leading Carroll to a 16-0 season and the Texas Class 5A Division I state title.

Still, he has the challenge of proving he's among the best in the nation to keep him going. Two weeks ago at the Dallas Elite 11 regional quarterbacks camp, Hill was one of six finalists to receive the golden-ticket invitation to participate in the Elite 11 national camp in July.

"The thing about watching him from his sophomore year to his junior year is the progress he's made on the football field has been tremendous," Ken Hill said. "With the expectations of him going to his senior year, because of what he's already accomplished, you know he's staying focused on the prize."

At Carroll, playing quarterback carries plenty of prestige -- and pressure. Hill is following a myriad of former Carroll greats, including Chase Daniel (won a Super Bowl ring with the Saints), Greg McElroy (won a BCS national title with Alabama) and other state champion QBs Chase Wasson and Riley Dodge.

"There's pressure, but I'm ready for it," Hill said. "I love being in the spotlight and under the spotlight. I'm ready for the challenge."

All eyes will be on Hill for his senior season. Currently, he's focused on baseball and helping the Dragons make a postseason run. From there, he'll work with the 7-on-7 football team and then prepare for Carroll's championship defense.

If he's spotted glancing at his ring, consider it inspiration for the immediate future.

"I think of all the hard work. All the long hours with teammates and coaches watching film, all the early mornings of lifting and throwing," Hill said. "That's what motivates me."