Yes, the weather is nice, but for Dalton Hilliard, a non-native of the state, it has a little different meaning.
Being the son of a father who is in the Marines, Hilliard has found himself living a rather peripatetic lifestyle. From his home-state of Illinois Dalton found himself experiencing the gamut in cultures, living in places like North Carolina, New York, Virginia and now Hawaii.
That's a lot of different types of people Hilliard has gotten to meet. It's something that says has made him perhaps a little more seasoned for his age. "Well, you just get to experience so much diversity when it comes to the people you meet, wherever you happen to be," he said. "It's interesting, because you see how different people some are just from what part of the country they live."
That's given Hilliard something that he probably didn't think would come in as useful as it has as he has become one of the more recruited running backs on the western side of the United States, and as a byproduct of that success, he's gotten to know even more different types of people. "I get to meet a lot of coaches and everyone is different, but there's parts about them which are the same," Hilliard said of the coaches recruiting him. "I think I can get a pretty good read on people, just because of all the different types of people I have had a chance to meet."
Not a bad asset to have when some coaches sound more like salesmen than they do coaches and some things some say sound more like slogans than an honest assessment of their institution and how it might fit that recruit the best. "It helps, I know that. I know that with all the coaches I get to know what I can kind of take in and what I usually take with a grain of salt, because they are all trying to sell their program," he said.
"But I have gotten to know a lot of coaches, and with some of them I have became pretty comfortable."
One of them is Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins, who Hilliard refers to simply as "Coach Hawk." Another is Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, who in year one of his career with the Cardinal, did the unthinkable in leading his team over USC. Then there is Tim Beck, running backs coach at the University of Nebraska, who Hilliard said seemed to be just a very nice guy, but remarked specifically about something that Beck didn't do, but the entire staff of the football team did which he still can't quite believe.
"It was like a week ago, but I got this package and it had a hand-written letter from every single coach on the team," Dalton said. "I had never seen anything like that. I had never even heard of anything like that. If you want to know if a team wants you, I'd say that's a way to do it, because it really got my attention.
"That's what has them as a high roller on my list of favorites right now."
Now, if you are a Husker fan, it's good to be excited that Hilliard lists the Huskers as one of his top schools. The big red joins other teams like Stanford, CAL, UCLA, Colorado, Notre Dame, Arizona and Washington, all of which have offered except for CAL and UCLA.
However, favorites now is great and he along with his parents are doing meticulous research on each, but as Dalton admitted himself, things seem to change fairly quick. "Recruiting changes, more teams come into the picture and that makes it that much harder to decide on what to do," Hilliard said. "But I do have the choices, which I am very fortunate to have, and all of them would be such great places to be."
Outside of the cultural diversity Dalton's experienced, he notes another advantage to moving here and there as he has grown up. You don't get too entrenched with watching or rooting for any certain team, especially at the collegiate level. So, his western address doesn't in any way impact his belief on where he'll attend college. The zip code and proximity mean nothing. "Yeah, that's the easy part, because I don't care about location, weather or any of that which might affect some if they grew up in just one place their whole life," he said. "It's the school for me, the academics and where I see their program in the future."
Nebraska is like most schools on his list, in that it's a place he hasn't yet had a chance to see. His mom, who Dalton calls the real researcher when it comes to all this college stuff, has done everything she can to keep her son in the know. Combined with that and what Dalton has learned on his own, it still isn't everything he wants to know, but it's enough to keep him very interested. "They have the tradition. They used to be one of the most dominant teams in the country and their fans seem to know every single thing about the team," he said. "It's just one of those places that when you hear about it and what you hear, you want to get there and see it for yourself. I know I do, and of my five official visits I am definitely taking one there."
Stanford and Colorado round out the list of three schools that Hilliard says he knows he will officially visit, and he'll figure out where the other two will take place.
Of Hilliard himself, a 5-11, 190 pound running back with 4.5-speed, Dalton describes his optimum playing style as a little Joe McKnight, the electrifying running back from USC and former Oklahoma great and current Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson. It's not to say Dalton thinks that he is as good as either one, but it's just so people get an idea of what kind of style he favors, the combination of scat-back-like moves with the option of taking you head-on if needed. "I think my quickness is one of my biggest strengths in how I am able to make that first guy miss and keep going," he said. "I work on my balance, but if I can't go around you, I don't mind putting my head down and taking a defender on."
The task he's taking on now is perhaps the hardest, knowing that out of all the relationships he's developed, he's going to have to tell but one of those schools "no." That is perhaps the most daunting part of it for him, because he sees in all his favorites something which will benefit him down the road.
As to when this decision will be made, it will be more than likely after the season, so that he's had an opportunity to visit every school and figure out things from there. That's a time he's looking forward to and dreading at the same time. "it's going to be tough. You get real comfortable with coaches to the point where they are people you feel really good about and you are going to have to tell all of them except one, that you are going to another place," he said. "I know that will be hard, but I also know that it's just part of this whole thing.
"Now it's just a matter of getting to these places, seeing what I feel is important and then going from there."
Hilliard finished his junior season with 1,500 total yards and 17 touchdowns. He played both running back and slot. He benches 280-pounds.