King of the Hill to join Team Ontario in Texas
by Randy Pascal
All that Austin Hill really needed was a chance to test himself against similar sized opponents.
Clearly the “biggest kid on the block”, on a local level, for some years now, Hill was recently named to the Team Ontario U16 squad that will
compete at the 2017 International Bowl in Arlington (Texas) in January.
The talkative offensive lineman will represent not only St Benedict Catholic Secondary School, but the Sudbury area in general, the only local to
be named to the rosters that have welcomed SDSSAA talent at various times over the past decade or so.
Attending the tryout camp on December 3rd, Hill knew that his mindset had to change from the junior high school campaign he completed a couple of months
back. “You have to be very aggressive, especially as an offensive lineman,” stated the 15 year old grade 10 student.
“I try and be the most aggressive player on the field, and I try and be quick on my feet, especially for a bigger guy.” Fair to say that Hill has
sometimes been challenged in terms of finding the proper balance to his aggressiveness, especially relative to the size of the lads that he has faced, with
various teams, in the gridiron trenches.
“A lot of your aggressiveness depends on your competition,” he acknowledged. “If you’re going up against someone who is really good, I think you can be
as aggressive as you want, in the sense that you’re not going to get them on the ground every time.”
“When you’re up against competition that may not be as strong, you don’t really tone it down, but you do have to play smart,” continued Hill. “If you’re
getting a guy to the ground every play, the refs are going to be looking at you. In a camp like this, where the competition is through the roof, you really
have to turn it up that notch from what you are used to playing.”
A summer season spent with the Sudbury Gladiators certainly helped Hill recognize the variances, with the bulk of those who attended the
Ontario Football Alliance sponsored tryouts earlier this month members of teams represented either in the Ontario Football Conference or the
Ontario Varsity Football League.
“I had talked to coach (Junior) Labrosse and stuff, but I really just went there thinking that I did pretty good with the Glads, and that the
competition there would be some of the best linemen from the other teams,” said Hill. “I wouldn’t say that my expectations were high, nor were they low. I
was just sort of hoping to do the best that I could.”
With seven spots open in a field of 25 offensive linemen, the Gladiators Junior Varsity Lineman of the Year in 2016 survived, in spite of making
a key mid-day adjustment. “I went out for center at the beginning,” Hill noted.
“I had played it for seven years, and then played guard for the rest. I was doing alright (at tryouts), but not the best. My snaps were kind of
botching. But once I moved to guard, for the last part of the first tryout, it was a lot better for me. I was bodying a lot more kids. That’s when I
thought that if I could keep it up, I would have a good shot.”
As the day wore on – the tryouts consisted on two separate three hour sessions, with an initial cut taking place after the first session – Hill began to
believe that his ultimate goal was achievable. “For someone powerful like me, a bigger guy like me, I was moving pretty well,” he said.
“I was being aggressive, I was being relentless. The person in front of me was going to have a long day. When the coach is looking at me, I want him to
believe that I am giving it my all. I think that plays pretty heavily into deciding who is going to make the team.”
As luck would have it, while most of the squad were provided the good news via email on Monday, the offensive linemen were congratulated on Saturday,
the line coach apparently somewhat concerned with his ability to remember names really well. Far better to single out the chosen few while the memory of
their performance was fresh in his mind, according to Hill.
“We were all in a big line, and everybody was kind of trying to puff out their chests, and the coach grabbed me and one of the other guys that made it,
and brought us towards one group,” Hill recalled. “We looked at one another and kind of knew that we had made it.”
The initial excitement now subsided, Hill can turn his attention to the January 11th to 18th period, when he will join his teammates at the AT & T
Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. “We’re getting four days of practice time, and it’s going to be jammed with football,” said Hill.
“It’s going to be practice, film studies, practice, workout – it’s basically going to be football 24/7, which I don’t mind at all.” Facing the U.S
Under 16 National team at 7:30 p.m. (CT) on (Tuesday) January 17th, Hill will actually be lining up opposite some of the same young men with whom he
has attended “Football University Top Gun Showcase” in prior years.
“I’m really looking forward to going against the best in the States, to see how we fare against them,” said Hill. Going against the type of competition
where he will not need to tone down his natural aggressiveness, not a single iota.