Remembering Mario Hill

Any fan of service academy football understands the risks that these young men assume when they take the oath. They voluntarily chose to put themselves at risk for our freedom. It's probably the main reason why it's so easy to root for their success in the fall. The United States has been at war since the attack on September 11, 2011.

Over 80 graduates of the United States Military academy have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country since the current war on terror began. You hope that all stay out of harm's way. You know that can't always happen when you see wounded heroes like former Army football players Lt. Col. Greg Gadson and 1st Lt. Tyson Quink. The news this weekend about the loss of former Army cornerback First Lt. Mario Hill was stunning. It might be because he was simply driving home at night. The news report from the Lexington Herald-Leader, stated the accident in the cold, blunt terms of accident reports: [Hill] was traveling east on Montavesta Road in a 2008 Chevrolet Impala when the car missed a curve, ran off the road and hit a tree head-on, police said. The driver, identified by the Fayette County Coroner's office as Mario Hill, 25, of Lexington, was not wearing a seat belt and was pronounced dead at the scene. The coroner's report listed Hill's cause of death as multiple blunt-force trauma. The wreck happened at the corner of Montavesta and Mount Drive near Chinoe Road in south Lexington. A delivery driver came upon the wreck and called authorities. Police arrived at 2:47 a.m.

It was that sudden. In an instant Mario Hill was gone. Mario Hill had always tried to the right thing, live the right way and was an example for his family. One wrong turn, an accident, ended his life. It shows the fragility of human life. Fortunately his untimely passing does not end the legacy for his family, friends, teammates and Army fans. Mario wore uniform No. 1 on the field and he was number one to those who cared about him.

Mario Hill was the oldest of nine children. He grew up in a difficult environment but always led by setting a positive example for his brothers and sisters. He worked hard in school and he walked-on at the United States Military Academy Prep school in Fort Monmouth, N.J. in 2005. In 2006 when he set foot on the West Point campus he became the first member of his family to attend college. He played on the JV team in 2006. In 2007 he appeared in nine games mostly on special teams. In 2008 he was the starting cornerback playing in all 12 games making 28 tackles and defending six passes. As a senior he was the first player to play field cornerback under Rich Ellerson. Field cornerback is the most difficult position to play in the double eagle flex defense that Ellerson brought to West Point.

The field cornerback is often asked to play Cover One or man-on-man defense without safety help over the top. It's not a position for weak-hearted players who can't handle responsibility. Mario Hill was the perfect cornerback for the role since he was always accountable and could handle the responsibilities the position entailed. Hill started all twelve games his senior season in 2009. He made 27 tackles, picked off two passes and defensed another eight throws. The following year Rich Ellerson told me how well Mario had played, "Mario Hill was a perennial starter out there.... our expectation that the corner position (in the flex) may have been a concern. It really hasn't been. It's been well played."

While Mario Hill was a fine player he was even a better man and a great teammate. Players, coaches and fans all remember his smile, his great sense of humor while at the same time he was a rather soft spoken and a quiet leader. Teammates refer to him as "Thrill Hill". Now the "Thrill" is gone, so suddenly and far too soon. As the lines in the West Point Alma Mater says "And when our work is done, Our course on earth is run, May it be said, Well done." Well done Mario Hill. May you Rest in peace. Top Stories