The Oklahoma State Cowboys went through their second to last practice at home in preparing for the upcoming Alamo Bowl against Colorado. Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy said the bowl workouts are going well, but after the practice on Monday the media met with selected coaches and players, and for the first and only time this season freshman running back, Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, and freshman All-American Justice Hill met with the media.
We scrambled over to Hill first, departing the mass group of reporters questioning Mike Gundy, so we could be on record with the first interview in college for the Cowboys new all-time freshman rushing leader. Heading into the bowl game in San Antonio, the Tulsa Booker T. Washington product has carried 187 times for 1,042 yards with five touchdowns and a 5.6 yards per carry average.
"He's been a really good player for us, especially at the position he is as a true freshman," Gundy said before we headed over to talk to Hill. "He exceeded my expectations for how productive he could be his first season."
So how did Hill describe his first season?
"It's been pretty surreal," he said. "At the beginning of the year I wrote my goals for myself and one of the goals was to be the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and all those things. So being able to accomplish those has been great, but none of those would have been possible without the offensive line and Mason Rudolph and the receivers blocking downfield. I thank all those guys."
His total list of accomplishments include first-team Freshman All-American by USA Today and Scout.com, Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year by Associated Press, Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year by the Big 12 coaches, second-team All Big 12 by the Big 12 coaches, Russell Okung Award winner on offense for top Oklahoma State newcomer by the OSU coaching staff, and three-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week during the season by media covering the league.
One week that was not an award winner was the game at Baylor where he fumbled twice and Gundy admitted he was hard on the freshman because he thought Hill could take it and he knew the lesson needed to be cemented.
"Just learning early that I need to hold onto the ball," Hill answered as to what he learned. "To practice I carried a water ball throughout practice the rest of the season. It really made me focus. I was able to practice that and actually focus on it and it helped me throughout the season."
So, what was the hardest thing for him to pick up as a freshman?
"Pass protection is probably the biggest thing. In high school you really just run the ball," Hill said. "Coming here and learning that was probably the most difficult part. Other than that it's pretty much the same, just running and scoring."
Hill was the talk of many of his older teammates this summer as they could see in workouts that he had a chance. So did he hear any of the noise about him?
"They were telling me stuff," he said. "Just keep working hard and you could be starting or playing and so I just kept working every day. I never hyped myself up on those words. I just came in and worked every day."
He sure did and if he will keep on doing it then he will get better. Hill said there is no ceiling that he intends to get better every season and that is a very exciting thing for Cowboys fans to hear after seeing what Hill did in year one.