King of the Hill

This week's Great Moment in Bears History features Harlon Hill, who holds several Bears receiving records, but his best game came against San Francisco back in 1954.

Bears assistant coach George Shaughnessy formulated the initial skinny on Harlon Hill in December of 1953, while Shaughnessy was in Montgomery, Alabama, scouting the annual Blue-Gray game:

In so many words, he said, "Harlon Who?"

Hill played split end for tiny Florence (Alabama) State Teachers College, which is now the University of North Alabama. He had caught just 12 passes his senior season. Yet some of Shaughnessy's coaching friends from the South kept raving about Hill

"If he's that good, why isn't he playing in this game?" Shaughnessy asked.

The reason Hill failed to participate in the contest was that Florence State, with an enrollment of just over 1,000 at the time, didn't enjoy big-time college football status.

Despite his reservations, Shaughnessy made mention of Hill in his notes. Then at a scouting meeting prior to the 1954 draft, Shaughnessy dropped Hill's name into the discussions. Bears coaches, including "Papa Bear" George Halas, still weren't sold on Hill, so Halas asked the school to send some game film.

Once it viewed the film, however, the Bears' staff was convinced it had found a diamond in the rough.

Selected by the Bears in the 15th round, Hill ended up being the steal of the draft - and went on to become one of the most prolific receivers in Bear history.

Hill became the first Chicago Bear wideout to post 1,000 yards in receptions for a single season (1954) -- keep in mind they only played 12-game seasons back in the mid-1950s -- and the first to go over 1,000 yards for two seasons. Marty Booker is the only other Bears receiver who's gained 1,000 yards or more in a single season twice.

Hill also holds other Bear records, including the most 100-yard receiving games in a career (19). But on a Halloween afternoon in San Francisco -- Oct. 31, 1954 -- Hill turned in the best single-game performance by a Bears' receiver.

The 6-foot-3 rookie became the talk of the league that day. Teaming up with George Blanda and reserve quarterback Ed Brown, Hill hauled in seven passes for 214 yards -- a team record that still stands today -- and four touchdowns, including the game-winner, as the Bears came from behind to defeat the 49ers 31-27.

A three-time all-pro as well as an NFL MVP, Hill suffered an ankle injury in 1958, which ended up robbing him of his speed. He eventually moved to defensive back, and remained with the Bears until 1961.


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