State Rivalry Not Foreign to Hakim Hill

Normally it would be fair to say that the Arizona rivalry may mean a little more to the Sun Devils who grew up in Phoenix, than the ASU players that attended high school out of state. Nevertheless, redshirt running back Hakim Hill, son of ASU great J.D. Hill, is a glaring exception. The rivalry with the Wildcats had been embedded in him for well over a decade.

"I've been a Sun Devil fan since birth," says the PrepStar Pre-Season All American, "And I watched every ASU-Arizona game since I was six. I definitely know what the rivalry is all about. And just in case he may have forgotten, his father who never lost to Arizona (and was part of a nine game winning streak in the series) has made sure to constantly remind his son of this game's magnitude. "We've been talking the last few months about this game. Actually, we've probably been talking the last 20 years about this game (smile). My dad definitely drove the point to me."

The USA Today All-American was exhibiting quiet confidence when we asked him of the team's psyche with the Arizona game just a couple of days away. "We know we can win there, we just have to go out and get it done. We definitely want to go there and proudly represent ASU. We want to play a good game, especially after the way we played last year." As one of the team's ball carriers, he realizes that ASU's stagnant running game has to get back on track in order to aid the Sun Devils' high octane passing game. "We need to run a whole lot better, especially this week so Andrew can take it on top. It's time for the running backs step up."

The redshirt freshman is ranked third in team rushing with 312 yards, but has five touchdowns on the ground, and three more via the air. His eight total touchdowns are tied for third in team scoring. He leads ASU in kick returns with 701 yards (21.9 yards a game), and is one of the conference leaders in that category. While these numbers are respectable for any first year player, Hill knows that improving his game is not an option, but a vital necessity. "I did some OK things. I can't be satisfied with my accomplishments, because I have to get better. I just want my improvement to carry over to next season, because I can help the team more than I did this year." Hill is however a little less critical over his kick return accomplishments. "Our special teams are among the nation leaders in virtually all categories, so we're having a great year."

Some of the maroon and gold harsher critics did expect more of the redshirt freshman, claiming that he hasn't been the consistent game breaker that fans envisioned when he joined the team. Hill does agree to some extent, and refuses to give himself a mulligan for being a first year player in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. "You have to keep your confidence, and I do have confidence in what I'm doing and the things I can do. Sometimes things won't go your way, but I know that things will be better for me in the future. I'm gonna work hard, and make sure that it happens."

Hakim Hill's maroon and gold tenure did get off to a troubled start, and it had nothing to do with anything that happen on the field. The running back entered a plea bargain, after charged with alleged rape. This unpleasant experience has taught him some valuable lessons. "I learned to make better decisions. I need to keep my head on straight, and take care of things off the field. If you take care of things off the field, then anything that happens on the field is that much more easy." While the next on filed task is playing ASU's archrival, a bowl game awaits on the not too distant horizon. There are four post-season scenarios for the Sun Devils, but Hill and his teammates are hoping only for one particular one. "We have a preference where we want to go. We want to finish third in the Pac-10 and go to the Sun Bowl. We want to finish out the season with a win in Tucson, and a win in El Paso."

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