Alex Hill Acclimating To New Home At UI

It takes entering freshmen time to adjust to a college environment and the rigors of major college football. That adaptation often includes adapting to climate and cultural changes as well. Offensive lineman Alex Hill had those problems and more, but he is beginning to get his feet under him.

Last winter was tough on Illinois redshirt freshman lineman Alex Hill. The Louisiana athlete wasn't accustomed to severe temperature changes, but he's begun to appreciate the cooler weather.

"Winter was the worst I've ever been through. It's cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I'm trying to get adjusted. I went home over spring break, and it was 90 degrees. I come back here and it was 25.

"I'm getting used to it though. It feels good to be able to stay warm. Actually, I'd rather feel the cold than the heat any day."

Hill reported to campus last June overweight, so he needed to work extra hard to get in shape.

"I came in just a little bit over weight, so I had to lose a few pounds. I've been working really hard losing the weight I have. I've gotten in shape, I've gotten better, my body is trimming up."

Strength and Conditioning Coach Lou Hernandez puts the Illini team through a rigorous summer conditioning program. Among other things, everyone must do a series of runs up and down the stairs at Memorial Stadium. Hill had difficulty adjusting at first.

"The stairs were pretty tough. They had me in there doing a little extra. It was rough, but I knew I needed it for myself and to help out my team."

Fortunately, he stuck it out. Now, he is beginning to get his weight down where he can contribute to the Illini team.

"I weigh 325 right now. I have a few more pounds to lose. I'm trying to get down to about 315, and I'll feel happy personally at that weight. And then I'll play at about 320."

Isn't it true Coach Lou wants you to lose the weight slowly?

"Yes sir. I can't starve myself anyway."

After all his hard work, Hill is beginning to feel good about himself.

"I'm working for a spot right now, and I'm doing pretty good. I'm doing good in the weight room, and I'm doing pretty good in school."

Sitting out a year helped him learn the system. Redshirting is ideal for offensive linemen.

"I've been in the playbook and know my plays now. I've been in the weight room, so I've gotten a lot stronger. It really helped me prepare for stepping up and helping out my teammates. Even if I'm on defense in practice, I can help them out and get them ready for what they have to do."

Hill was recruited as a center and played there last year. Due to a lack of depth at the two guard spots, he was moved there this spring. He likes his new opportunity.

"Yes, that's how I look at it. I'm excited to move to guard because I knew that we didn't have a lot of depth at that position. If I worked really hard, I knew I had a chance.

"I feel pretty good. I remember when I moved to center in high school, I didn't really like that. I like it better now. Anywhere I can move so I can get playing time and help my teammates is fine."

Hill enjoys pulling out to lead interference for ball carriers, something he didn't do as a center.

"I love that. I loved doing that in high school. I'm just happy I can get out there and pull, set up screens and everything like that. Actually, it's a lot easier. I think playing center helped me out a lot. I knew all the plays, I knew every person's position. That helped me when I moved to guard."

The Slidell High School grad shares his best traits as a lineman.

"I give it my all. I really try. I might be tired, but I go full speed. I think I listen really well too. Coaches may yell at me, but I'm still receptive and listen. I try to correct it."

He knows what he needs to improve upon.

"I really need to work on my footwork, getting out. Losing some more weight would really help me with that. My footwork, getting focused, and getting the right steps, that's what I really need to do."

Hill, who is contemplating a career in Advertising, may not be ready to help the Illini this fall, but he can be an asset once he gets in top shape and gains maturity and experience.

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