Since transferring to Slippery Rock University, running back Wes Hills has wasted no time in making an impact.
Through 11 games, the 2013 Wildwood High School graduate has rushed for 1,560 yards on 227 carries, an average of 6.9 yards per carry. He’s scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and also has 25 receptions for 172 yards.
Unranked Slippery Rock will travel to 11th-ranked Notre Dame College of South Euclid, Ohio, for the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs noon Saturday. The Rock have been the underdog in every game of the postseason thus far.
Hills, 23, finished with 188 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 59-20 win over New Haven in the second round Saturday. With that performance, he is just 42 yards shy of the school’s single-season rushing record.
For Hills, however, he’s just happy to finally have a healthy season, having played in all but two games for The Rock (11-2) this season.
“It’s been a long road,” Hills said. “I’ve battled injuries throughout my career. At (the University of) Delaware, I might have had one full season.”
Hills transferred to Slippery Rock after spending the last four years at Delaware.
He was medically redshirted his junior season in 2015. After an injury-shortened 2016 season in which he rushed for 728 yards and seven touchdowns, he was deemed academically ineligible for the 2017 season.
He retained his final year of eligibility and transferred to Slippery Rock.
“I was blessed to have another opportunity at (playing) and showing everyone what I can do with a full season,” he said.
The Rock went 7-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, but lost in the PSAC title game to West Chester 33-10 on Nov. 10.
The Rock was the bottom seed in its seven-team bracket, and earned upset wins at No. 2 Long Island Post (20-14) and No. 6 New Haven in the first two rounds.
Notre Dame is the top seed in their bracket, beating No. 5 Hillside 19-14 in the second round after earning a first-round bye.
The D-II tournament is comprised of four seven-team brackets. If Slippery Rock wins Saturday, it will play in the national semifinal at a date and location to be determined.
Now that he’s healthy and producing at a high level, Hills has attracted the attention of NFL scouts from all over the country.
“Every NFL team has come here to see him,” second-year Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz said. “Every single one.”
At their game against New Haven, a scout from the New York Giants was in attendance.
Lutz was actually the one responsible for recruiting Hills to Slippery Rock. According to him, it was the hardest recruiting pitch he has ever done.
“I spent a lot of time and effort (recruiting him) because he was a Division I football player,” Lutz said. “I just was trying to be honest with him.
“Hopefully, I held up my end of the bargain in telling him what we can do to help him, because he can do more to help us than we can (to) help him.”
In 2012, Hills led Wildwood to its first playoff appearance in 40 years. He rushed for 3,401 yards and 45 touchdowns in his final two seasons. He was a first-team Press All-Star and named the Press Male Athlete of the Fall.
With his final collegiate season nearing its end, Hills will soon be looking at potential agents in preparation for the chance to play in the NFL.
He hopes teams see the ferocity he brings to the game.
“I’m just a violent runner,” Woods said. “Whether it’s blocking or running the ball, I try to be the hammer and not the nail.”