Orem senior offensive lineman Hunter Hill had offers to play college football for some big-name schools.
But when it came his turn to announce his decision in front of an audience of Tiger fans on National Signing Day on Wednesday, he proudly donned a Utah State hat.
“When I first started my recruiting process, a main goal was to stay at home,” Hill said. “I’ve won two state championships here, my family is here, I’ve always wanted to stay close to Utah. When (Utah State head coach Gary Andersen) got the job, I was the first phone call he made as head coach to offer me a scholarship. That was always in the back of my mind and my heart. To be here today signing with them, it is an absolute dream come true.”
He grinned when he talked about the additional benefit of having his friend Cooper Legas — the Orem quarterback he has blocked for during the last couple of years — also commit to playing for the Aggies in Logan.
“Coop and I are inseparable,” Hill said. “He’s my best friend. I love that dude. The fact that I get to go from protecting him in high school to college is awesome. When I knew Cooper was going there, that’s when I really started to really take things seriously. That usually never happens, so it’s special.”
Legas and Hill were two of eight Tiger athletes to sign either letters of intent or to be preferred walk-ons at the Orem event, six of whom were football players.
“This is phenomenal,” said Tiger head football coach Jeremy Hill, who is also Hunter Hill’s dad. “Having coached a lot of these kids as long as I have, this has been their goal. It’s been a long journey and a lot of fun along the way but they’ve always wanted to play college football. Seeing these boys — all of whom I view as my sons but my blood son is up there as well — it’s a special day for them and I couldn’t be happier.”
Jeremy Hill had an extra reason to be pleased with Hunter’s decision, since he has ties to Utah State, but he said it wasn’t an easy process.
“We always talked about what we call stressful blessings,” the Tiger coach said. “Even as of five minutes ago, we were in my office and he was wondering if he was doing the right thing. I think he let his heart make the choice. He wanted to be close to family. That’s where I played. I’m alumni, my dad is alumni, so I wasn’t going to talk him out of it.”
Hunter Hill said even though his family has been Aggies, he never felt pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad didn’t sway me at all,” Hunter Hill said. “He said, ‘I want you to do what is best for you, what is going to make you happy.’ At the end of the day, I feel like that is what I did and why I chose Utah State.”
The Orem athletes were eight of many Utah Valley high school students to take the opportunity to sign National Letters of Intent on Wednesday as they took another step toward playing their respective sports at the next level.
Many schools had presentations or assemblies to recognize their athletes and honor them for their hard work in high school that helped them earn a chance to be collegiate players.
Not all of the athletes signed on Wednesday, however.
Most notably, Orem star receiver Puka Nacua — who verbally committed to USC and was in attendance to cheer on his teammates — was not ready to sign with any school at this point.
He will likely make his decision official sometime in the next few weeks.
If you know of any high school athlete who signed a letter of intent on Wednesday, please email the information to Jared Lloyd (email@example.com) so a complete list can be published on Friday.