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Northwest Bearcats

Press Release

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March 21, 2013

Harlon Hill passes away at age 80

Courtesy Jeff Hodges, Chairman National Harlon Hill Committee, Asst. Athletic Director at North Alabama

FLORENCE, Ala. -- Harlon Hill, a former football All-American at the University of North Alabama, a National Football League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player with the Chicago Bears and the namesake for the Division II College Football Player of the Year award, passed away Thursday. He was 80.

"We are truly saddened by the news of the passing of Harlon Hill," said Jeff Hodges, Chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee and Assistant Athletic Director for Communications at the University of North Alabama. "He was a legend and an inspiration to so many.  In our 27-year relationship with the Hill Trophy, Harlon was always very gracious and humbled that his story and legacy could be used to inspire new generations of student-athletes to excel and dream of what they could accomplish. I think he was as appreciative that he was a part of the creation of an award program that honored Division II athletes as he was that his name was on the trophy.”

A native of Killen, Ala., Hill was born: May 4, 1932 and graduated from Lauderdale County High School and the University of North Alabama, then Florence State Teachers College, with a B.S. Degree in Education in 1955. He also earned a master's degree in Education from UNA in 1969.

He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 15th round (174th overall) of the 1954 NFL Draft and earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1954 after catching 45 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. In 1955 he became the first recipient of the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the NFL Rookie of the Year.  

In all he played nine seasons in the National Football League (1954-62) with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. 

Following his professional football career he became a public school teacher and coach at Brooks High School in Killen, Ala., eventually becoming the school’s principal.

In 1986 he became the namesake for the Harlon Hill Trophy, presented annually to the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year. The award has been presented for the last 27 years in December on the eve of the Division II Football Championship Game in Florence. 

Hill was inducted into the Lauderdale County Sports Hall of Fame, the University of North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame, the Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. 

More than 50 years after his playing career ended in Chicago, Hill’s 4,616 receiving yards still rank second best in Bears history, as do his 40 career TD receptions. His 19 career 100-yard receiving games are still the most by any Bears receiver. His four receiving TDs in a game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 31, 1954 is tied for Bears record with Mike Ditka and his 214 receiving yards in that game is still a Bears record.  

 

HARLON HILL BIO

Harlon Junious Hill

* Born: May 4, 1932 in Killen, AL (Age 80) 

* Graduate of Lauderdale County High School in 1949

* Graduate of the University of North Alabama (then Florence State Teachers College) with a 

B.S. Degree in Education in 1955 

* Earned a master's degree in Education from the University of North Alabama (1969)

* Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 15th round (174th overall) of the 1954 NFL Draft.

* Played nine seasons in the National Football League (1954-62) with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. 

* Following his professional football career he became a public school teacher and coach at Brooks High School in Killen, Ala., eventually becoming the principal.

* Served as an Assistant Football Coach with the University of North Alabama football team, 1967-68

* In 1986 he became the namesake for the Harlon Hill Trophy, presented annually to the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year

Awards

National Football League Rookie of the Year in 1954

National Football League Jim Thorpe Trophy recipient as MVP in 1955 

Pro Bowl participant in 1954, 1955 and 1956

All-Pro selection in 1954, 1955 and 1956

Captain of the West Squad in the 1956 Pro Bowl

Member of the Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame (1958)

Member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (1976)

Member of the University of North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame (1990)

Member of the Lauderdale County Sports Hall of Fame (2000)

Member of the 50th Anniversary University of North Alabama Football Team (1949-99)

Member of the Chicago Bears Ring of Honor by Bears History.com

Member of Chicago Bears All-time Team (1920-Present) by 20Yardline.com

Named to Chicago Bears All-Time Starting Lineup by Bleacher Report

Named to 50 Greatest Bears by ESPN

Harlon Hill on All-Pro Teams in the National Football League

Year

Team Level

Voters

1954 2nd Team

All-NFL Associated Press

1954 1st Team

All-NFL NY Daily News

1954 1st Team

All-NFL Sporting News

1954 1st Team

All-NFL UPI

1955 1st Team

All-NFL Associated Press

1955 1st Team

All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.

1955 1st Team

All-NFL NY Daily News

1955 1st Team

All-NFL Sporting News

1955 1st Team

All-NFL UPI

1956 1st Team

All-NFL Associated Press

1956 1st Team

All-NFL Newspaper Ent. Assoc.

1956 1st Team

All-NFL NY Daily News

1956 1st Team

All-NFL Sporting News

1956 1st Team

All-NFL UPI

Chicago Bears Record Books . . .

* His 4,616 receiving yards is second best in Bears history

* His 40 career TD receptions is second best in Bears history

* His 19 career 100-yard receiving games still the most by any Bears receiver

* 4 receiving TDs in a game vs. San Francisco 49ers on October 31, 1954 is still tied for Bears record (with Mike Ditka).

* 214 receiving yards in a game vs. San Francisco 49ers on October 31, 1954 is still Bears record 

* Still holds Bears records for most receiving yards by a rookie (1,124) and most TD receptions by a rookie (12). 

HARLON HILL TIMELINE

1946-49

Lauderdale County High School

1950-53

Florence State Teachers College

(now University of North Alabama)

1950-53 - Four-year letterman at end

1952-53 - Team Captain 

1953 - NAIA All-American

1955 - Received his B.S. degree in Education

1954-61

Chicago Bears

1954 - National Football League Rookie of the Year

1955 - Winner of the first Jim Thorpe Trophy as

National Football League Most Valuable Player

1954, 55, 56 - All-Pro

1955, 56, 57 - Pro Bowl

1956 - Captain of West squad in Pro Bowl

1958

Selected to Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame

1962

Pittsburgh Steelers

1962

Detroit Lions

1969

Received his Master’s degree in Education from 

University of North Alabama

1976

Selected to Alabama Sports Hall of Fame 

1986

Creation of the Harlon Hill Trophy

1990

Inducted into University of North Alabama

Athletic Hall of Fame

1998

Selected for 50th Anniversary UNA Football Team

2000

Inducted into Lauderdale County Sports Hall of Fame


For more information, please contact:

Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
sid@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582

Northwest Athletics
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468