While Justin Hilliard didn't get drafted, he'll still get his shot to play in the NFL.
After six years at Ohio State in which he battled through several injuries to become a team captain, Hilliard is signing with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent.
Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Hilliard's contract with the 49ers includes a $30,000 signing bonus and a $95,000 base salary guarantee, which indicates he'll have a real chance to make the roster in San Francisco.
A five-star recruit out of Cincinnati's St. Xavier High School all the way back in 2015, Hilliard was sidelined by biceps tears in each of his first two seasons at Ohio State. Over the next three years, Hilliard was a backup linebacker who played primarily on special teams.
But after receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA due to the time he missed with injuries, also including a torn Achilles he suffered during the 2019 offseason, Hilliard finally got his opportunity for substantial playing time down the stretch of the 2020 season and took advantage of it, recording 25 total tackles with five tackles for loss, an interception and two fumble recoveries in his final three games as a Buckeye.
That wasn't enough for Hilliard to get drafted, but he'll at least get his shot to compete for an NFL roster spot, and there's no doubt he's going to have a chip on his shoulder, as he's never lowered his expectations for himself despite all the setbacks he had to overcome.
“I’m still nowhere where I want to be,” Hilliard told Eleven Warriors in February. “I’m still shooting to be the best linebacker in the country, and I’m not there yet, so I’m still working.”
Hilliard joins third-round pick Trey Sermon as members of last year's team heading to San Francisco, whose roster also includes Hilliard's former teammate Nick Bosa.