I don’t spend a lot of time talking about walk-ons, but then again, most Syracuse University football walk-ons don’t rip off 60 yard touchdown runs during intrasquad scrimmages. Jacob Hill, a 5-foot-6 running back from Detroit, is a rare walk-on to earn some attention and might eventually even find his way onto the field in kickoff or punt return situations.
The 165 pounder from Detroit Country Day (the high school that produced, among others, Chris Webber, Shane Battier, and Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer) rushed for about 700 yards and 16 touchdowns last season on his way to earning All-State honors, and also had eight interceptions while playing cornerback for Country Day in his career.
But if you go watch Hill’s senior highlight video, you’ll notice that it’s almost entirely kick return footage. That’s where the speedy, diminutive walk-on could actually work his way onto the field. Boasting a reported time of 4.4 in the 40, Hill was a standout in track and field in high school. He owns the second fastest time in Country Day history in the 60 meter sprint with a time of 7.11 seconds, which, by the way, would have ranked him as either silver or bronze medalist in 1900 or 1904, the only two times the event was held at the Olympics. In case you’re wondering, the world record is 6.39, held by Maurice Greene (the top time at the World Indoor Championships last year was 6.49 seconds).
Now, Hill did his damage at Fan Fest against his fellow freshmen and fellow walk-ons, but it’s hard to ignore the speed and shiftiness he showed running the ball, and that’s precisely why it’s conceivable his speed could ultimately be utilized in the return game. Syracuse has used walk-ons on special teams before, including on punt returns – remember Max Meisel? The former Howard Stern Show intern and 5-foot-4 walk-on played in eight games during the 2005 campaign as one of the team’s primary punt returners.
Unlike Meisel, Hill actually has elite speed and played some big time football in high school, competing in one of the strongest leagues in Michigan. If he keeps impressing in practice, don’t be surprised if he at least gets a look in the return game.