Walter Hill inspires Army teammates

Army wide receiver Walter Hill isn't afraid to make the tough catches over the middle. Even when Hill knows he's going to get hit, maybe even creamed, by a defender with a clean shot on him. Hill still sacrifices his body, makes the catch, takes the hit and gets right back up for the play.

It's why he's evolved into one of Army's top receivers.

It's why his teammates respect him so much.

It's why Hill's peers named him a captain this spring.

"I'm in good company," Hill says. "It kind of caught me by surprise."

Hill has come a long way, considering he didn't crack the starting lineup last season until late-September, when Jacob Murphy broke his collarbone against Iowa State. Hill stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 187 pounds. He runs a 4.7 in the 40-meter dash.

Still, he has great hands. Army coach Bobby Ross says Hill's might be the best on the team. He's gritty. He's fearless. Hill was second on the team with 34 catches for 410 yards and had two touchdowns.

Hill provided his Army teammates and fans with one of the most inspirational moments of the 2005 season. His mother, Barbara, died last Oct. 25 after a long battle with cancer. She was 54 years old.

Hill had the game of his life 11 days later in the Black Knight's historical 27-24 at Air Force. He caught seven passes for a career-high 114 yards. He found different ways to get open all afternoon. So quarterback Zac Dahman kept getting Hill the ball.

On Oct. 24, Hill went home, to Randallstown, Md., to be with his ailing mother. Doctors told his family she would be OK when the family left the hospital that night. But she took a turn for the worse later that evening.

She died at 8 a.m. the next morning. Walter and the rest of his family were at her bedside. Hill was reluctant to return to West Point, to leave his two teenage sisters, Christine Curtis, 19, and Lindsey Hill, 18. But his father, Walter Sr., and the two girls convinced him to go back last Monday.

That's what his mother would have wanted, they said.

And there was a game to play, and against another service academy at that. They take those seriously at West Point. Hill may not be a speedster, but he excels because of the precise routes he runs.

When the game with Air Force ended, Hill had accounted for all but 34 of Army's receiving yards – screen passes, sideline patterns, over-the-middle routes, he caught balls on all of them.

On the field, Army celebrated its first win at Air Force in 28 years. The alma maters played. Hill put his helmet on and started to cry. He ran back to Army's locker room. He peeled off his sweaty jersey, untied his bulky shoulder pads and sat in front of his locker still wearing his game T-shirt.

On it was a picture of his mom.

"I would hope my teammates didn't base it off my mom," says Hill of being named captain. Don't worry, Walter. It was much more than just that.


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