From the Shoe to the Show: A Look Back at the Ohio State Career Highlights of NFL Draft Prospect K.J. Hill

By Dan Hope on April 14, 2020 at 1:55 pm
K.J. Hill vs. Penn State
James Lang – USA TODAY Sports

Another new group of Buckeyes are about to officially become NFL players, so we’re taking a look back at the best highlights from their Ohio State careers in From the Shoe to the Show.

Ohio State is set to be one of the most well-represented schools in the NFL draft once again in 2020, with more than a dozen players who are expected to either be drafted or sign as undrafted free agents when this year’s draft is held later this month (April 23-25).

K.J. Hill is one of those former Buckeyes who will hear his name called next week, and there are no shortage of highlights to rewatch from his career at Ohio State, where he became the first player in school history to catch more than 200 career passes (201, to be exact). From catching a touchdown in his first game as a Buckeye to recording at least one catch in each of his final 48 games at Ohio State, Hill was remarkably consistent throughout his four playing seasons in scarlet and gray, and he made no shortage of big plays along the way.

He’ll soon look to continue catching the ball with such consistency for an NFL team, but for now, it’s time to take a look back at some of his best and most memorable receptions from his collegiate years.

A touchdown on his first career catch

After redshirting his first season at Ohio State in 2015, it didn’t take long for Hill to make a name for himself in his first playing season as a Buckeye. Just over four minutes into Ohio State’s 2016 season opener against Bowling Green, Hill beat Falcons safety Jamari Bozeman deep to not only make the first catch of his Ohio State career, but score his first touchdown from 47 yards out.

“It felt really good,” Hill said during the following week. “I’m just blessed to get an opportunity and I prayed to get an opportunity and I just made the most of it.”

A needed catch against Northwestern

After the season opener, Hill caught only one pass in the next six games of his redshirt freshman season – in part because he missed time with an ankle injury – but he came up big in the Buckeyes’ eighth game of the year against Northwestern.

With the score tied 17-17 and less than 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Hill got open along the left sideline and caught a deep ball from J.T. Barrett for a 34-yard gain that brought the Buckeyes to the 10-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown in a contest Ohio State would win 24-20.

That certainly wouldn’t be the last clutch play of Hill’s career, but it was the first, and after the game, Urban Meyer called upon Hill in the locker room to recognize him in front of the team.

Two touchdowns in Lincoln

Hill had the first two-touchdown game of his career in the seventh game of his redshirt sophomore season at Nebraska. In a 56-14 win for the Buckeyes over the Cornhuskers, Hill caught seven passes for 80 yards – also a career-high at the time – with a 16-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter and a six-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter.

12 catches in a comeback win

One week after scoring twice at Nebraska, Hill came up even bigger in Ohio State’s following game against Penn State, when he caught a career-high 12 passes – tied for the fourth-highest single-game reception total in Ohio State history – for 102 yards and helped lead the Buckeyes to a 39-38 fourth-quarter comeback win over the Nittany Lions.

Ten of those catches came in Penn State territory, and eight of them came on scoring drives – including a trio of catches on Ohio State’s final two touchdown drives that completed the Buckeyes’ comeback from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Big third-down conversions in The Game

Hill had only two catches in Ohio State’s 2017 rivalry game in Ann Arbor, but both of them were huge.

With the Buckeyes ahead by just one point entering the fourth quarter, Hill got open on 3rd-and-4 for a 29-yard catch-and-run that got Ohio State out of its own end of the field and led to a field goal. On the Buckeyes’ next possession, Hill flipped the field on third down by turning a 3rd-and-7 into a 24-yard catch, ultimately helping Ohio State maintain control of a game it would win 31-20 for its sixth (at the time) consecutive victory over Michigan.

Game-winner in Happy Valley

Among all the 201 catches in Hill’s Ohio State career, none was more memorable or more impactful than the play he made with just over two minutes left on the clock in the Buckeyes’ road game at Penn State in 2018, when he took a screen pass 24 yards to the end zone for what would be the game-winning touchdown in a 27-26 victory for the Buckeyes, their second straight fourth-quarter comeback win over the Nittany Lions.

He received a big assist from Austin Mack and Terry McLaurin, who made crucial blocks to lead Hill’s way to the end zone, and Hill perfectly maneuvered around the blocks before high-stepping across the goal line in Beaver Stadium for one of the biggest plays of Ohio State’s 2018 season.

“It was just a dream come true,” Hill said during the following week. “The crowd was silent. You could hear a pencil drop when I scored. That was the best feeling, to make a crowd get quiet like that.”

Who needs two hands?

Hill had the biggest game of his Ohio State career just two weeks after the Penn State game against Minnesota, when he caught nine passes for a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-14 win over the Golden Gophers.

His full highlight reel from that game is worth watching again, as he made several big downfield plays over the course of the game, but the clear standout – and perhaps the most physically impressive play of his entire Ohio State career – came on his first touchdown, when he spun around to make a one-handed snag and then kept on running all the way to the end zone for a 36-yard score.

A career-long 53-yarder

The longest play of Hill’s Ohio State career came last season against Miami (Ohio), when the fifth-year senior captain burned the RedHawks’ defense and caught a deep ball from Justin Fields to go all the way for a 53-yard touchdown.

Ohio State would ultimately go on to win that game, 76-5.

Two touchdowns on a record-breaking day

In the second-to-last game of his Ohio State career, Hill made history by surpassing David Boston to become Ohio State’s all-time leader in receptions – and he did so on a night when the Buckeyes needed him to step up and make big plays.

Hill caught seven passes for 83 yards and had the third two-touchdown game of his career to help lead the Buckeyes to a comeback win over Wisconsin, 34-21, and win their third straight Big Ten Championship Game. Hill scored his touchdowns on back-to-back possessions in the third and fourth quarters to turn a 21-17 deficit into a two-score lead that Ohio State would not relinquish.

In the final game of his Ohio State career, the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson, Hill tied another record by catching at least one pass (he had six receptions for 67 yards) in his 48th straight game, matching the streak previously set by Gary Williams from 1979-82.

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