First name defines greatness in Mississippi collegiate footballBy RICK CLEVELAND,
Greatness of Mississippi collegiate football players over the years has been illustrated any number of ways. You can do it by citing their statistics, of course. You can do it by giving them trophies and retiring their numbers.
But a simpler, more telling and enduring way exists that speaks to their greatness and the way their fan bases perceive their legacies. That is: You only have to use their first names and everyone knows who you are talking about.
For instance, Ole Miss has had Bruiser and Jake and Archie and Deuce and Eli. Southern Miss has had Reggie and Brett. You mention Walter to a Jackson State fan and everybody knows you are talking about No. 34, the guy with Payton on his jersey. Mississippi Valley State had Jerry and Willie. Alcorn had Steve, with an “Air” for emphasis. At Mississippi State, older fans know who Jackie (Parker) and Shorty (McWilliams) were and everybody knows Dak.
Now, Mississippi State has another one who no doubt will be remembered by one name. He's Kylin, Kylin Hill from Columbus, and two weeks into the 2019 season, his junior year, he is about to become well-known around nation.
This guy is special. He runs with a combination of power and speed we rarely see in Mississippi or anywhere else. Some of the runs he made this past weekend in State's 38-15 conquest of Southern Miss reminded this writer of those guys named Walter and Deuce. Kylin Hill runs with a relentlessness that comes from more than muscle and sinew. It comes from deep inside. He runs with passion.
Hill was going against a salty Golden Eagle defense that ranked third in the nation last year and had not given up 100 yards to a runner in 15 games. Kylin went for 123 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. He also caught two passes for 19 yards. Yes, he had some proficient blocking on occasion, but sometimes, he just made yards on his own. Several of his runs should have been followed by an exclamation point.
During the game, I happened to be texting with that guy named Deuce. Wrote McAllister, “Kylin is a first round choice if he stays healthy.”
He is that and more. Said State coach Joe Moorhead, who knows a thing or two about great running backs: “Kylin has a small back's skills in a big back's body.”
Hill makes runs that instantly make you wish for a replay just to be certain you really saw what you thought you saw. One Saturday came with a play where Hill started running to his left and was hemmed in by several Eagles, at least one of whom had Hill in his clutches. But Hill broke away, ran away from them and headed to his right on the way to a 22-yard gain. About 15 yards down the field, it appeared a USM defensive back had him dead to rights. When the defender went for Hill's legs, Kylin simply hurdled him and kept going.
I was on the road that night so I don't know if that play made the ESPN's Top 10 plays. It should have. It was the second time Hill hurdled a would-be USM tackler in the open field, which is something 99.9 per cent of running backs lack the instincts, sheer ability and courage to do.
Afterward, Hill was asked about the run.
“He was right in front of me. I saw his eyes looking down and knew he was going to go low,” Hill said. “So, I just jumped over him.”
“No,” Hill said, he didn't know who the defender was. “But when I walked by him he said, 'Why you got to do us that way?”
“I told him I got to do what I got to do to get to the league.”
As Mcallister said, the guy named Kylin is headed that way. Through two games, Hill has run for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries. That's practically eight yards per carry. That leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation. (Florida State's Cam Akers, from Clinton) ranks fifth with 309 yards.)
Besides size, speed and ability, Hill appears to have something else all the great backs have: durability. He had to be helped off the field late in the first half last Saturday after rolling his ankle on one short gain, causing a rollicking home crowd to go deathly quiet.
But the fans stood and cheered when he returned for the first series of the second half after re-taping and treatment. He continued the show.
Who knows where all this ends? The competition will get stiffer when State begins to play the Auburns, LSUs and Alabamas. Running backs suffer bad leg injuries every week in college football. But Kylin (king of the) Hill has the ability and passion to play for anyone in this league or any other.
You mention “Kylin” 20 or 30 years from now, I suspect Mississippi football fans won't need to hear the last name.
Rick Cleveland (email@example.com) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.