Ohio State redshirt freshman wide receiver K.J. Hill became the answer to a trivia question Saturday when he hauled in a 47-yard pass from J.T. Barrett and walked into the end zone.
Who scored the first touchdown of the Buckeyes’ 2016 season?
No offense to Hill, but there seemed like a few candidates who were more likely.
Barrett, Ohio State’s starting quarterback, was probably the first choice. The redshirt junior had 22 rushing touchdowns in his career entering the season-opener; a quarterback draw inside the 10-yard line seemed like a real possibility to give the Buckeyes their first score of 2016.
Or perhaps it would be Mike Weber, the starting tailback, or Curtis Samuel or Dontre Wilson, two dynamic playmakers. Noah Brown — the wide receiver every player and coach talked about all of camp — would have been the No. 1 selection out wide.
That’s not to downplay Hill at all, of course. He was always expected to contribute this season despite being inadvertently left off the depth chart heading into Saturday’s game against Bowling Green. But it just seemed like if there was a list of options, Hill would be somewhere down toward the middle or the end.
“It felt really good,” Hill said Wednesday of his touchdown. “I’m just blessed to get an opportunity and I prayed to get an opportunity and I just made the most of it.”
Firsthand view of the first touchdown of the year straight from the family of K.J. Hill! What a moment! pic.twitter.com/GUpLBR2rTi— Urban Meyer (@OSUCoachMeyer) September 8, 2016
That opportunity almost didn’t happen. Both Hill and Barrett said a run play was called at the line of scrimmage, but Barrett called an audible and sent Hill deep in a one-on-one matchup with a safety.
“The original play was a run play,” Hill recalled. “They played zero coverage so J.T. checked it to an isolation with me on the safety. I locked him up, stacked him, he threw the ball and I caught it.”
If Samuel and Wilson are counted as wide receivers, Ohio State played 10 on Saturday against the Falcons. That’s precisely why Hill said he knew he had to make the catch when he had a chance.
If he hadn’t, he was unsure when his next opportunity would come.
“If you don’t make that play somebody will come in right behind you to get in and if they get the same opportunity they might make the most of it,” he said. “Every time you get a ball or a chance you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Added fellow wide receiver Terry McLaurin: “Seeing K.J. Hill make that play, I was as happy as if I would have made the play. We know our unit and how hard we work so seeing the other guy make the play, you just gotta be happy for him and be ready if your number is called.”
Hill was certainly ready, and now he’ll be in the Ohio State record books forever as the guy who scored the Buckeyes’ first touchdown of 2016. It was his first career catch, and for it to be a touchdown to open a season made it that much more unique.
Even Hill said he was surprised he was the first one to cross the goal line.
“I didn’t think I was going to be that guy,” he said, “but I just got put in the position to do it so I just made the most of it.”