For Kylin Hill, the Mississippi State running back, there’s an allure to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And it stems from the man at the top.
“Bringing in Urban Meyer, everybody know he's one of the greatest coaches, if not—to some, the best coach in college football.”
Hill, meeting with reporters after his Pro Day on Tuesday, revealed he’s talked to the Jaguars—“Oh yeah, I have talked to them a lot”—as he prepares for the 2021 NFL Draft. Hill opted out of the 2020 season after three games due to COVID concerns, but his tape from 2017-2019 shows a guy who dominated the SEC.
In 2019, he led the SEC as he passed the century mark with 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his entire career, Hill accumulated 2,535 total yards, 16 touchdowns and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. He also added 631 yards and six touchdowns through the air, averaging 9.4 yards per reception.
In 2017, his freshman season, Hill finished with 431 total yards and two touchdowns. While he was just getting his feet set in college, the offense he played in under then head coach Dan Mullen was similar enough to what Urban Meyer is running now (Mullen learned under Meyer) that Hill is interested by the possibility of running in the offense again.
"I've been watching [Meyer] as a kid growing up; you know the guys he done put in the league, the guys he done coached. The results are there like, he's one of the greatest coaches to do it. And like I said, if I was to go to them, going into that offense, I played in a similar role so it would just be tic for tak, I just gotta get in, learn the playbook and get the job done.”
Meyer has expressed a desire to build around now second year sensation James Robinson.
"Running back, James [Robinson], we feel pretty good about him. He had a good year, so we want to build a room with him being an integral part of it," Meyer told reporters ahead of free agency.
But for Hill now, getting the job done extends far beyond the field. In the summer of 2020, as social justice protest raged around the country and debate over possible ingrained prejudices were brought to light, constituents wondered if the state flag of Mississippi—molded after the Confederate battle flag—was an effort to harken back to antebellum days.
Kylin Hill knew it was. So he tweeted a simple message: “Either change the flag,” Hill’s tweet read, “or I won’t be representing this State anymore 💯 & I mean that .. I’m tired.”
He was tired. Tired of an endless conversation with little change, tired of yelling into the ether and never seeming to be heard, tired of explaining prejudice and hurt to those who’d never experienced it; he was just tired, in every sense of the word.
So instead of diving into discourse, he sent out his tweet, rolled over and took a nap.
An hour later, the landscape of Mississippi and college football had changed.
What happened next is to complex to minimize to an aside during a Pro Day story, but to attempt a summary: the perceived power of the college athlete shifted, the intersection of college athletics and social justice became prevalent…and the flag of Mississippi was officially changed. Hill is credited as one of the catalysts.
“I’m an athlete. I’m branded very well. I feel like someone in my position had to speak up,” Hill said Wednesday. “What I did, I knew the backlash I was going to get. My family, my teammates, they stood behind me. Even the coaches, so it helped everything out and the support I was getting, it just felt good. Even other players from other schools—backing me up, DM me—motivated me and let me know they were all behind me. I knew what I was doing, it took a big risk and if I had to go back and do it over, I would.”
Now Hill is off to the NFL (a move he considered last offseason before electing to return for 2020, albeit before COVID) and once there, he will find a league that has been humbled and now willing to take on those challenges that are important to their players. During the 2020 offseason, the Jaguars were the first time of what became many to lead a march, protesting social injustice.
While Hill will be stepping into the locker room as a rookie, he does so with the experience now that can help make him a leading voice in those conversations and efforts.
Noted Hill, “The NFL did a tremendous job of handling the situation. The Commissioner getting involved and allowing other players to get involved shows a lot. When you see the Commissioner doing that, a lot of players look at that and they’re proud to play for the NFL. What they’re doing for the NFL is huge and I would love to be a part of that.”
And if he also brings a stout frame that can serve as a compliment to James Robinson in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield? That’d be welcome too.