By Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
PIQUA — For Piqua High School senior Riley Hill, the son of Joe and Misty Hill, his future plans got thrown another curveball — as if the coronavirus wasn’t enough.
Hill was set to play for Urbana University, under coach and former Piqua quarterback Tyler Haines, who had built the program into a success.
When UU decided to close its doors two weeks ago, all that changed.
But, that was a minor setback for Hill, who has already proven he can overcome any obstacle — and will continue to prove that the next four years at the University of the Cumblerlands in Williamsburg, Ky.
The 6-foot-3, 323-pound offensive tackle is considered a walking miracle by many.
During a routine pre-school physical at the age of five, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. They found a massive hole in his heart during open-heart surgery.
Hill actually had no symptoms and no murmur at all, and doctors said at the time if it hadn’t been discovered, it would have been fatal if he had played sports.
“This means a lot,” Hill said about being able to play college football. “I think it does (give him a different appreciation of the opportunity to play the game). After going through heart issues and having heart surgery.”
Hill never played organized football until the sixth grade.
But once he stepped on a football field, he knew it was the place for him.
“They held me out until the sixth grade,” Hill said about his doctors. “But, from the time I played, I loved it. Being bigger than everyone else, it was a great place to take out my anger with controlled aggression.”
And while Hill has battled injuries throughout his high school career, he had a breakout season this fall.
He paved the way to Piqua having third-ranked rushing attack the Miami Valley League with 2,058 yards rushing.
He was named first team All-MVL, first team All-Southwest District and third-team All-Ohio.
“Really, this is the first year Riley (Hill) was completely healthy,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “And you saw what he could do.”
Hill was stunned by the news of Urbana University closing.
“It was kind of a shock, because I was all set to go to Urbana,” Hill said. “It is not just me. I feel terrible for the other players, the coaches and all the teachers (losing their jobs).”
Hill said the Cumberlands was an easy choice.
And it goes beyond the fact the school advanced to the FCS NAIA quarterfinals a year ago.
“My aunt lives right there (in Williamsburg, Ky.),” Hunt said. “I have been there many times. I toured the campus last year and really liked it.”
And he will have a familiar face on the team.
“My cousin plays for the Cumberlands,” Hill said. “He was going to the Cumberlands and I was going to Urbana, so it didn’t look like we would get to play together — and now we do. It was a no-brainer.”
Hill, like everyone else, is living in a new world with the coronavirus.
“It is crazy, that’s for sure,” he said. “The coaches have talked to me. We haven’t had any zoom meetings or anything like that yet.”
Piqua football coach Bill Nees said it is a perfect spot for Hill.
“The great thing about it is Riley (Hill) had a relative that played for the Cumberlands,” Nees said. “He was on campus last year, so he has already been there and been on campus. And they were excited to get a player of Riley’s talent and ability.”
Hill hopes to make an immediate impact.
“That’s not really up to me, but if I put the hard work in, I think I can,” Hill said. “I got a great scholarship package. Right now, I am just hoping we can play football this fall. It is crazy not knowing if we are going to play or when it is going to start. I am hoping we will play this year.”
And no matter the final outcome — Hill has shown throughout his life, he will be up to the challenge.
Contact Rob Kiser at [email protected].
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