Former Belleville West star Brian Hill bumped to Day 3 of NFL draft
The wait continues for former Belleville West football star Brian Hill.
He watched calmly from a comfortable sofa in the basement of his former high school coach, waiting to hear his name called on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rounds two and three came and went, and the University of Wyoming’s all-time leading rusher still doesn’t have a pro team.
“I’m a little disappointed that a couple teams passed on me,” he said when the final pick was made late Friday night. “But it’s another day tomorrow and whoever gets me is going to get a No. 1 pick in my opinion.”
Hill was projected on some boards as a fifth- through seventh-round pick, a few had him as high as the fourth round.
Interest from the Kansas City Chiefs, however, led Hill to believe he might be taken with the compensatory 40th pick of the third round, No. 104 overall. That hope was dashed when the Chiefs took Toledo running back Kareem Hunt with the 86th pick instead.
“I thought there was a good relationship there, but they took another back,” Hill said. “It’s their loss.”
Hill speculates that his value took a slide because of a broken wrist he sustained in Wyoming’s Week 9 loss to New Mexico. He didn’t know how serious the injury was until the season ended three weeks later.
Now it requires surgery.
Cameron Pettus, the head coach at Belleville West, hosted a party at his house in Damiansville with his assistant coaches, some of Hill’s former Maroons’ teammates and anxious parents Tamara and DeMarcus Scott.
Hill played video-game football with Maroons’ assistant coach Tommy Spillan as friends shot billiards or partook of the tailgate spread. But as the draft advanced toward the middle of the third round, those who remained huddled around the television anticipating big news that never came.
“It was a long day today and I was able to take my mind off the draft and have fun a little bit,” said Hill.
Handicapping Hill’s spot in the draft hasn’t been easy. He has good size (6-foot-1, 219-pounds) and adequate speed (4.54 in the 40-yard dash).
He most definitely has the numbers: In just three seasons at Wyoming, he set school career records with 4,287 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns. His 1,860 yards and his 22 rushing TDs as a junior last season are single-season records.
Hill has also fumbled just once in 349 carries, is a good pass-blocker and has impressed scouts with his energy and high motor.
Still, analysts projected Hill as a fourth-round pick at best.
So what’s not to like? FoxSports.com says it’s a lack of explosiveness, NFL.com says he too willingly seeks contact instead of scanning the field for openings.
“I don’t read that,” Hill said. “My job is to run the football, their job is to watch football. I do my job a little better than they do.”
What might be most to blame for pushing Hill into the third day of the draft is the depth of talent at his position. Hill is rated the 11th-best running back in the draft by Walter Football.
Only LSU’s Leonard Fournette (No. 4 by Jacksonville) and Standford’s Christian McCaffrey (No. 8 by Carolina) were taken in the first round. Four more running backs were taken ahead of Hill in the second and third rounds.
Two other players from Belleville are targets in this year’s draft. USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, who grew up in Belleville and attended Belleville East as a freshman, was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the 18th overall pick Thursday.
Chase Allen, a linebacker from East and Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is a likely sixth- or seventh-round pick.
Rounds four, five and six of the draft are Saturday. The selections begin at 11 a.m..
The last Belleville player taken in the NFL draft was East offensive lineman Craig Heimburger was the Green Bay Packers fifth round pick in 1999. Quarterback Rusty Lisch was the last Belleville West Maroon taken when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the fourth round in 1980.