USC’s Rising Stars camp is often the highlight stop of the summer for recruits on the West Coast, no matter if the Trojans are coming off a national title or stand knee deep in sanctions.
And while the week's events often draw the biggest names from both sides of the ball, they don’t often see one of those names hail from the Bayou State.
Patterson High’s Kenny Hilliard, ranked as the nation’s No. 14 running back prospect, turned out one of the session’s most dominant offensive performances, quickly proving his worth as Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year to those seeing the 6-foot, 238-pounder for the first time.
“I felt great, and I definitely think I came up with the best performance out of any of the backs,” said Hilliard, back in Louisiana after a weekend return flight from Los Angeles. “There was some pretty nice talent, and a couple of quarterbacks really stood out. All around it was a great experience for me.”
Not out of the ordinary for a high school recruit in Los Angeles, the four-star prospect ran into his fair share of celebrities on the trip, the most notable being one of the NBA’s biggest names.
“Dwight Howard was coming from L.A. to New Orleans and we ran into each other, so that was pretty cool,” Hilliard said. “For a small-town guy, it was fun to just cut out and do something different for a weekend. They said it’s a trip that every high school recruit should try to take, because it’s definitely crazy out there.”
As for his six-month long pledge to the Tigers?
“It’s still as strong as ever,” Hilliard said. “I was just about to sit down and call up (running backs) coach Frank (Wilson) and let him know things went smooth. Right now our relationship is super strong. He’s the coach that keeps up with me and the other running back commitments, and we all get along great. Nobody has any doubts about being at LSU.”
With plans for a December graduation, Hilliard’s focus this summer remains on closing out his final year at Patterson with a bang. After he rushed 278 times for 2,512 yards and 32 touchdowns last season, Hilliard sits just 1,335 yards away from the state’s all-time rushing record, held by Ascension Catholic’s Germaine Williams, also an LSU signee.
With East St. John set for opening weekend and a possible bout with fellow Tiger running back commitment Jeremy Hill to follow, the stage for a big beginning is set.
“I’d love to blow up out of the gates, because getting to a great start will be key for me this year,” Hilliard said. “Our coaches have tried to set up something with Redemptorist for ESPN to air, so that showdown would be pretty cool. I’m not thinking too much about records or anything, but more about letting loose and having fun with this last year of high school.”
The four-star prospect will wrap his summer workouts up with a visit to LSU for July’s Les Miles Football Camp.
“That will be my last college campus visit,” Hilliard said. “After that, all my focus is on the season. I’m going to work out up at the camp, though. A bunch of people have planned on being in town, and I’m looking forward to getting out there with some of the other commitments.”