That all quickly changed a couple weeks ago.
Big-time college coaches have been coming by Punahou School in droves. Most of them are there to see five-star linebacker Manti Te'o. Charlie Weis dropped in to see both of them, and verbally offered Hilliard.
"Which was a pleasant surprise," Dalton Hilliard said. The 5-foot-11 ½, 185-pound standout also has written offers from Colorado and Stanford. He was told the paperwork from Irish should be coming in the spring.
"I know there is a lot of tradition at Notre Dame. It's a very well known football school. They are known for their football and academics. I just know with my family, it's very important to have good academics. With them being a good academic school, they are high on my list because I need a fall-back plan if my dream of going to the pros falls through. I'll be in good hands if I go to Notre Dame.
"I know this year didn't go the way they planned. This year was rebuilding year for them, but I know they have a good future ahead of them. In my case that's a good thing because I hopefully could come in and contribute to the program whatever I can."
Hilliard and his family would like to have a college decision wrapped up before the start of his senior season. They hope to take some unofficial visits this summer, and see some campuses.
Besides the three programs that have offered, Hilliard and his coach Kale Ane are also hearing heavily from USC, California, Auburn and Florida. Hilliard has taken trips to LSU, Colorado, USC and UCLA in the past, and says all schools are running even at this point.
"I'm looking for great coaches with great morals that want to make great men out of their football players, and want to win a National Championship, and hopefully get me to the next level which is the ultimate goal," Hilliard explained.
Hilliard can run a 4.49 40-yard dash, and bench press 280 pounds. Both he and Ane did not have his junior stats. Whatever they were, they were good enough for Weis to offer a full-ride.
Hilliard briefly spoke to Weis and shook his hand, but the two parties couldn't say much to each other per NCAA rules. Weis and assistant coach Brian Polian visited with Ane for about 90 minutes.
"We were excited to have him out here," Ane stated. A center, Ane played college ball at Michigan State before a professional career with the Kansas City Chiefs. "It was a big production for us, for him to come out here, a person of his stature, and be interested in our kids.
"I think he likes Dalton's burst and athleticism. He likes the way he can run and catch the ball. He has good vision."
"Coaches tell me I'm more of an elusive back just because I like to make the first guy miss, never trying to be brought down on the first hit," Hilliard explained. "That is the main thing they focus on when they are talking to me about my running style."
Location definitely won't be a problem for Hilliard when it comes to making a college decision. His father Larry is a Major in the Marines, and the family has lived in Chicago, Virginia, California, North Carolina and New York. They moved to Hawaii when Hilliard was in sixth grade.
"I've been around," he stated.
"I'm comfortable in any location and any weather. People think that Notre Dame is so far away from Hawaii so I wouldn't be interested, but that is definitely a place I'm going to be interested in."
There is a lot of confusion about Hilliard being the son of former NFL running back Dalton Hilliard. Obviously that is not the case, but Hilliard's mother found a way to put the two in touch through an LSU coach while attending a camp last summer.
"He was actually quite a gentlemen," Hilliard said. He was very well mannered. We talked about football. We talked about life in general. He asked me what my running style was like. He told me how he used to run the ball. It was an amazing experience because not everyone gets to sit and talk with Dalton Hilliard."
Hilliard however, is related to former NFL tight end Keith Jackson. Jackson is his mother's cousin, and the two have met at a few family barbeques over the years.
The day Weis came in and blindsided Hilliard with a verbal offer, Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh also came to the school with a scholarship.
"I don't remember getting much homework done that night," Hilliard said. "My Dad and my Mom and I were sitting up talking about that day, and how great of an opportunity it is to go to one of those historic schools."
"I tell you, when he said they verbally offered, he was extremely excited because Notre Dame is such a great school," Larry Hilliard said when specifically asked about the Irish. "To have an offer sitting on the table from a school with that tradition and history is great. It just makes it more of a challenge to nail down what actual school to attend for him. It's such a great school and really wasn't on the radar. They are now, now that they've shown a keen interest in Dalton's abilities."
Much more interested than just a Christmas card.