11W Community Interview: Five-Star Linebacker Commitment Justin Hilliard

By Jeremy Birmingham on July 20, 2014 at 11:05a

The 11W Community Interview is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. You submit the questions, vote on them, and then we pass the top ones on to the biggest names in the world of Ohio State athletics.

It's been over a year since the majority of Eleven Warriors readers were introduced to Cincinnati St. Xavier's Justin Hilliard, despite the fact he's now a household name for recruitniks. His recruitment was a roller-coaster ride of emotions for Ohio State fans and coaches alike, thanks in large part to Hilliard's methodical and calculated approach to his school selection. Despite being an admitted Buckeye fan, the nation's second-ranked linebacker took his time, thoroughly checking out all available options over the past year.

In early July, just days before heading to Oregon for Nike's The Opening, Hilliard made his decision in a nationally-televised press conference on ESPN.com and decided, after all his searching, that staying home was for him. 

Today, the 27th-ranked player in the country takes your questions becoming the latest Ohio State football commitment to participate in the Community Interview series.

You sound like you really enjoy recruiting other players. What are the points or ideas that you stress when you talk to them about Ohio State football and what it means to be committed? - EvanstonBuckeye

JH: For me it’s simply building relationships with other recruits, whether it’s through destroying them in 'Madden' or having good conversations about the family at Ohio State. It might sound kind of harsh but every recruit is looking to play in the NFL and you got to know if you’re not talented enough to get time in college than the NFL might not be an option for you; I believe some people get too caught up in the numbers and depth charts. The biggest thing I stress to the recruits I talk with is family. At the end of the day, it is about where you feel most comfortable and where will enjoy your college career. A huge part of that is the people around you. The way the "Dream '14" reached out to me was amazing, so I'm looking to do with other recruits and other future Buckeyes.

At what point did you know in your heart that you truly wanted to be a Buckeye and what challenge are you looking forward to the most when you step foot on the field at the Shoe? - Buck Commander

JH: Over the last two years I’ve visited Ohio State eight times but I didn’t know 100-percent I wanted to (be a Buckeye) until my last visit. During that last visit we talked zero numbers, no depth charts, no academic talks, no campus tours – nothing. I simply spent time with the players and coaches, spent time meeting their families and talking about everything except football. On that visit I really learned what the Buckeye family was about, even more than I had before. The "Dream '14" had always shown me love but just seeing them in person and seeing how close they all were really attracted me to the Buckeye family. After that visit I was 150-percent Buckeye.

I’m looking forward to the team challenges, I believe if I put the effort and time in the playing time will take care of itself. I look forward to the challenge of bringing Ohio back to national championship status and winning multiple championships for all the people of Ohio.  

What was your experience like at The Opening? Which recruits stood out to you? Which coaches helped you the most? And what did you take away from the experience? - Killer Nuts

JH: The Opening was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. Everything was over the top and it also turned out to be a great way of promoting Buckeye Football to recruits and people across the nation (through throwing the OSU hat at the camera every time I had the chance or putting the hat on Josh Sweat, Damien Harris or anyone else wanting to be a Buckeye). Everyone was a freakish athlete up there but the recruit who stood out most to me was Sweat. He runs as fast as a running back but plays defensive end; I mean the guy even looks like Jadaveon Clowney. I was blessed enough to be coached by Coach Mac (New England Patriots' great Willie McGinest), he's a future Hall of Famer. He was honestly one of the greatest people or coaches I’ve been around. We had a special bond, whenever he got the chance he’d tell me about his NFL stories or setting yourself up for life after football. Right after the camp I gave him a call to tell him thanks for everything and we ended up talking for two hours about anything and everything, from our faith to our failures. Literally speaking I came out of the camp with linebacker MVP honors and some hardware but I learned a lot. I know I have to keep working as hard as I am to stay at the top of my game but also I think we all learned that there is more to being a football recruits than just football.  It was really cool to see all different kind of personalities and egos coming together and have a blast. 

Since you are from Cincinnati: Skyline or Gold Star? - BuckeyeinToledo

JH: (Laughs) This is probably the easiest question I’ve been asked: Skyline all the way. Honest, I am not quite sure how Gold Star is still in business. No offense to their chili, but Skyline is way better. 

What are your thoughts on the great Buckeye tradition at linebacker, and how important is it for you that the unit succeeds together (versus an individual standing out)? - Hovenaut

JH:  Ohio State is "Linebacker U," baby! The list goes on for days of great Buckeye linebackers and a lot of them have been coached by our very own Coach (Luke) Fickell. That tradition of greatness? It’s huge! When it comes down to it, success is measured by who is holding the crystal ball (or the new cool gold one) over their heads at the end of the year, and that's what we're trying to build.  Defense wins championships and linebackers are the quarterbacks of the Defense. It is very important for us to perform at a high level and to be leaders of the Silver Bullets. 

Are you aware that when you and Jashon (Cornell) verbally committed, the 11W site crashed for several hours? Do you and other recruits follow this site? - BuckGuyFan1

JH: Yes I follow the site and I had heard about that (laughs). A big "sorry" goes out to all the fans and readers and of course to the tech guys at 11W. I generally try to stay away from a lot of the recruiting sites just to keep my head level, because I really don't like the rankings, but I follow 11W as a Buckeye fanatic myself and now as a commit. 

Cincinnati has been an area of Ohio where Ohio State hasn't exactly excelled in the last 20 years, but has recently benefitted from a concerted effort. How did you perceive Ohio State growing up, and share with us a bit how our coaches recruited you? - Knarcisi

JH: I wouldn’t say that is exactly true. Cincinnati has produced some productive players at Ohio State but I feel like my old neighbor (Jordan Hicks) made people feel that way when he chose Texas. However, Cincinnati is Buckeye territory too, almost everywhere I go I’ll get a handful of “Go Bucks” from people. I was a fan of Ohio State growing up in Cincinnati. I loved Coach Tressel. I first met him when he was recruiting Jordan, and I have three autographed shirts in my room saved from when I was in 3rd grade.

The current coaching staff did a great job recruiting me. The coolest part was that the Urban Meyer was my main recruiter, because I know that's now how it is for everyone. They showed and didn’t tell. They showed me how big family was there by spending time with them when I was on campus. They showed me how important I was to their class because I'd talk to (Urban) Meyer almost every day for two months and counting. I love the place. 

You said one of the three characteristics you were looking for in a college program was the opportunity to win a national championship. Do you like Ohio State's chances next year? Any thoughts on the state of the 2015 class towards achieving this goal? - Ewanjobi

JH: Yes, I honestly just hate losing, and I always have. I wanted an opportunity to win a national championship, and what better place to do that than home? I really like our chances this coming season. We have an explosive offense who can put points on the board and a hungry defense looking to prove everybody wrong. It’s a great formula for success. I’ll be at every home game this fall, so I know I will see plenty of wins this year.

Buckeye nation has taken note of how active you are in your recruitment of other top flight players in the class of 2015.  If there is one guy who you think is a 'must get' in the Scarlet and Gray who is not already committed, who would it be? - KansasBuckeye

JH: There’s not one. I’m greedy I want them all. I want to play with the best. The guys that I’ve been going at the hardest though are Damien Harris, Josh Sweat, Matt Burrell, Malik Jefferson, Van Jefferson, Neville Gallimore, along with a few others. I plan to get them all if possible. I’m trying so hard to make Josh Sweat see what it's like being a Buckeye, and I have some time to keep working because he’s not deciding until later in the process.

(Ohio STATE) showed and didn’t tell. They showed me how big family was there by spending time with them when I was on campus... I'd talk to (urban) Meyer almost every day for two months and counting. I love the place.

What former Buckeye matches up to your playing style? - BuckeyeInSavannah

JH: I think that would be James Laurinaitis. I try to model my game after his. He plays so passionately, and so hard every play and is one of the most intelligent linebackers in the NFL. He seems to know where the ball is going before the play is ran.

Buckeye fans, do you know how tough it is to be a huge Buckeye fan, and go through almost two years of recruiting? Sitting in Ann Arbor, I almost let out a yell when the Buckeyes got the goalline stand against TTUN last November. I want you to know that I’ve always been a Buckeye fan but I had to put that aside during the recruiting process to find out what place is truly best for me. I wouldn't have done it different if I had to do it again, but I found my home is home.

Our class of 2015 commits are very close, and we talk everyday about stuff other than football. I believe if we can show others how big of a family we have in Columbus we’ll be able to bring in many of the country's best players, because that is what got me: the people who are a part of Buckeye Nation. The fans, the students, the coaches, the players; there's just nothing like it. Go Bucks!


Comments Show All Comments

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Hilliard GETS IT. Sounds like a solid kid and definitely on point out there on the recruiting trail. Psyched to see him get to OSU and get to work. I would take 85 of this kid on the roster, as I'm sure most here would. 

+22 HS
GoBucks10's picture

Great football player, from the glorious town of Cincinnati, and votes Skyline over Gold Star. Winner on all accounts.

"Because I couldn't go for three."  - Woody Hayes

+8 HS
BuckeyeNationforLife's picture

Thank god, he knows his chili. Can not wait to see him in the scarlet and gray!

Paralyze resistance with persistence. - Woody Hayes

+7 HS
DWright's picture

I like you Justin Hilliard.

+5 HS
BuckeyeGrownFloridaLiving's picture

Amazing stuff, a class act Buckeye.

+6 HS
AngryWoody's picture

JH: (Laughs) This is probably the easiest question I’ve been asked: Skyline all the way. Honest, I am not quite sure how Gold Star is still in business. No offense to their chili, but Skyline is way better. 

Being from the Nati I could not agree more with this. Gold Star is complete trash...Now I want some damn coneys.

Be back in 15.

Our Honor Defend!

+11 HS
Boxley's picture

I know right, unfortunately since I moved into NE Ohi othe closes Skyline is over a 50 mile round trip. Sucks. Love me some skyliners, three way, hell four way if all the girls are really cute;)

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

+1 HS
Poison nuts's picture

Blown away at his maturity, leadership, & passion for OSU. He's the real deal & I couldn't be happier that Ohio State got the absolute best linebacker in the 2015 class. 

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+4 HS
cinserious's picture

I know they are from opposite corners of Ohio but does Hilliard remind anyone else of a young Chris Spielman? I can't believe this dude's still got a whole 'nother YEAR of high school!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Montana silver bullet's picture

Imagine he, Sweat and Gallimore on the field at the same time!  B1G QB's look out!!!!!

Montana Silver Bullet

+3 HS
cinserious's picture

And RB's, WR's. TE's.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

whiskeyjuice's picture

WOW!! Great interview! And nice to heat that '14' reached out to him. Also nice to hear that he is still aggressive about getting other top recruits to go to OSU. 

Also seems to me that he has the kind of passion and energy that rubs off onto others. That is a huge leadership trait that can be hard to come by. GO BUCKS!!!!

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

+3 HS
buckguyfan1's picture

If you're a Buckeye, this guy has to get you excited.

+5 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

Last year my favorite recruit was Berger, this year it's Hilliard. I hope to see all our great Buckeye Lb's "Crackin them Rb's" !!!

"The Past Builds the Future"

+1 HS
703Buckeye's picture

There’s not one. I’m greedy I want them all. I want to play with the best.

Justin, after your playing days are over, may I suggest coming to recruit for UFM and the Bucks?!

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+6 HS
Groveport Heisman's picture

Wow this young man is a true leader and has future All-American written all over him. Cant wait to watch him carve out his legacy.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+4 HS
Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Winner winner chili dinner!!!  Welcome to the Buckeye Nation Justin - I cannot wait to see you flying around like the Little Animal and crushing anybody having the unfortunate luck to be carrying the football!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

+5 HS
ARMYBUCK's picture

The epitome of what a Buckeye should be!  Players like him that want to be Buckeyes...yes please!

+2 HS
LouGroza's picture

Sounds exactly like Linebacker U's next great Buckeye linebacker! Great to be able to root for a true Buckeye!

+2 HS
whiskeyjuice's picture

If OSU keeps recruiting this way, they will be known as DE U too!!

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

+2 HS
lljjgg's picture

Sitting in Ann Arbor, I almost let out a yell when the Buckeyes got the goalline stand against TTUN last November.

I literally laughed out loud at this, I can only imagine!

AWESOME that he's going to try to be at every home game, btw. That's typically when you get the big official visitors, so it's great that he'll be there to form a bond with them + spend time.

+2 HS
BuckeyeinToledo's picture

Since you are from Cincinnati: Skyline or Gold Star?

Wow, this guy sounds like a genius! Where does he come up with such great questions to ask the top recruits!?

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

-Woody Hayes

almurray10's picture

Awesome. Sounds like he wants Sweat just as bad as we do. This is the definition of the type of person/player I want repping the Scarlet and Gray.

+5 HS
buckeyebfd's picture

It's nice to see Justin's taste in chili has warranted as many comments as anything else.  Skyline all the way baby

+3 HS
dubjayfootball90's picture


You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

Fly Patterns's picture

What a cool story about his time with Willie mcginest. Hilliard calls him after the opening to thank him and they talk for a couple hours on the phone. Man I would like to have a couple super bowl winners on my speed dial.

bucks_4_life's picture

The last 2 paragraphs gave me goose bumps! Can't wait for him to have his chance to expand the legacy of linebacker u!!

The juice is worth the squeeze

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

Birm....well done....you seem to be at the top of your game....VWD.....if Justin was a 3 star recruit he would still be the type of person i would want on the team....and as long as he is on this team, he will be one of our leaders...young man, you are the epitome of a true Buckeye...and know that this family goes beyond just football.....you are a Buck for life....


+2 HS
MauricXe's picture

that's a big kid lol great physique

Balkestud's picture


It gets kind of rough in the back of my limousine,



mobboss1984's picture

I'm excited about our future. It seems like we are getting class a student athletes. They all seem focused and have great families and morals. Can't wait to see these boys play.

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.
Bruce Lee

+2 HS
Silver Bullet 10's picture

Collier, Hilliard, Apple. Tressel is still helping us build a national title team. His legacy is truly being felt, especially in recruiting. 

+5 HS
Rob Reese's picture

Cannot wait to see this kid play.

Alumni lounge attracts pretty people
+1 HS
Habu71's picture

Great interview, welcome to the fam Justin!

+1 HS
southernstatesbuckeye's picture

It's exciting to see the progress of the team as top recruits are added to the foundation already in place.  People want to compare the Bucks to an SEC team because of the concentration on speed and impact players, and fine, that's been tolerable till now.

I think that within a few short years, people will be comparing SEC teams to Ohio State! 

The Buckeyes will be the new standard of excellence.  I don't think it's a pipe dream to see that the trend is angling upward, ever upward.  Urban Meyer is intent on putting all the years of coaching practice at other schools into his final act!

Great time to be a Buckeye!

I like cookies.

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

The staff hit a homerun with this kid.

I season my simple food with hunger

+3 HS
904buckeye's picture

I love this kid accepts the challenge to compete for his roster spot.


luckynutz's picture

If I didnt know who was answering the questions, I woukd have thought this was an under the radar kid who had to camp for his offer. Not a 5 star, top 30 recruit. Humble, hard working and knows nothing is given, only earned. Love the fact that all these young men all have stated they are ready to work and bring it every day to earn their spots.

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

They've all been great, but this CI sure stands out. Humble, hungry (even for the right chili), focused and determined... Justin Hilliard impresses off the field as well.

Very confident this young man finds individual and team success in Columbus.

Go Buckeyes.

+2 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Many here felt that Hilliard was the key to this class, and it is clear why.

+3 HS
1967Buck's picture

Thank Birm, great write up. There is a lot of good I see in that young man.

+1 HS
irishfury's picture

The one thing that really sticks out to me.  Is some people have stated that we have lost recruits because of our depth.  This just confirms this to me how he states so many people get caught up on the depth chart.  Good stuff really glad to have this kid.

+1 HS
OSUbonobo23's picture

Damn I'm loving his passion. Always great to hear that Buckeye enthusiasm from a recruit. Holy shit I can't wait for football season now!

I put the The, in The Ohio State Univeristy.

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

I watch him play, and he bears a striking resemblance to another #47 in Scarlet and Gray...

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+1 HS
teddyballgame's picture

We are KILLING it at Linebacker.  Can't wait to see the '14 and '15 classes get out there.

+1 HS
TobyMagic's picture

Kids a great ambassador for this class, wish we could've got him earlier, but just glad he's all in now..

+1 HS
Buck Commander's picture

This young man has it together ......welcome aboard young man.......DOMINATE!!!!!

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

This guy, Kwon and others like Booker are going to make us forget we ever had a laspse at LB. 

+3 HS
cinserious's picture

^^THIS^^      Even with the Mike Mitchell setback, OSU is still killing it at LB recruiting. The snowball effect will continue to accelerate as we start winning B1G time games!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

I keep forgetting about Booker sadly. That kid is gonna be a beast!

When you watch his film, I think he's a Clay Matthews Jr. clone. I am hoping OSU utilizes him much the same way that they did Bobby Carpenter.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

Shangheyed's picture

Wow indeed another excellent interview of a fine young man!

glenbucks777's picture

I doubt he was ever going anywhere else. Go Bucks

Barnsey69's picture

This dude has his act together. Players like Justin make great teams into champions, so glad he stayed home.

Go Bucks!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

BUCKI06's picture

You had me at Skyline.

"As long as we're keeping score, we're gonna try to win this thing." - UFM

+2 HS
toad1204's picture

He's going to be a good recruiter this year but even better as an upperclassman because he wants what is best for OSU.  Glad to have you JH.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

vball10set's picture

Welcome to THE Ohio State University, Mr. Hilliard, and can't wait to watch you and your fellow "Dreamers" on the field donning the Scarlet and Gray...GO BUCKS!!!


It was as if he was channeling his inner 11W when answering the questions.  JH, know that with every bone crushing tackle, we are with you and cheering on your success on and off the field bro

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

buckeyejma's picture

gr8t questions by members of  Eleven Warrior family, also want to comment on excellent answers of Mr. Hilliard. Just makes ya want to jump in and say HELL Yeah!............. and GO BUCKS..................

Step aside Nick, Urban is the real rock star!

Crimson's picture

Maybe use a red scarlet screw, so that it's more noticeable?

+2 HS
BeijingBucks's picture

Yeah. I was confused for a minute... Phone size fonts makes that icon an unsightly blue and yellow. 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

+1 HS