Nick Hill has been having a big season, but there still was one thing he had yet to accomplish.
The senior running back had not seen more than 100 yards next to his name in a game in his career. Check that off, as he had 178 on Saturday in Michigan State’s 56-17 win.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It was actually very emotional for me.”
Hill already had tallied 102 yards on his first 15 carries, but his 16th brought the exclamation point. He took the ball up the middle, saw a cutback lane, broke through a tackle from a safety and was off to the races for a 76-yard touchdown – with a smile on his face.
“When I broke free, I kind of had a semi-smile on my face as a I broke into the open field,” he said. “I had to make sure no one was around me, but as I hit the end zone, I could feel a huge relief off my shoulders.
”I was like, ‘I finally did it and finally got over 100.’ I had a big smile in the end zone.”
He credited losing weight before the season to helping him hit a second gear on the long run.
”I broke out and didn’t get caught, pulled away,” he said. “A lot of guys said I didn’t know you had that second gear in you.”
He is playing now around 180 pounds, where he was around 200 a season ago. He entered the season near 190, but after getting sick heading into Oregon and the following bye week and losing about 12 pounds, Hill saw the benefit of sticking with the lower weight.
”Me being lighter and still being able to run tough between the tackles definitely helped,” he said. “I told myself I would stick around it and still keep my strength. So far so well.”
Keeping strength has not been an issue for Hill, who said he benches 435 pounds and squats more than 600. Senior offensive lineman Connor Kruse said Hill is one of the hardest workers he has ever met.
”We will be in the weight room and he will throw on more weight and try and compete again me in squatting, benching and everything,” Kruse said. “It’s amazing. I always say he squats more because he’s shorter. It’s just a back and forth thing between us.”
As the results show on the field on Saturdays now, Kruse said it is exciting to see someone he came into college with having that success.
”To watch him finally take off on a huge run was so exciting,” he said. “Me and Travis were going crazy on the sideline and pumped for the kid. …
”Obviously he has gotten better and had some really great runs this year.”