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Hill signs to play football with Navy

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

Sprinting to beat a throw to first base, Ryan Hill not only got a single for his West Brunswick High School baseball team but ultimately an offer from the Naval Academy to play football.

Hill, West’s all-conference quarterback, signed a letter-of-intent Feb 4. to accept a scholarship to attend Navy.

“I knew they had a great football team,” Hill said, “but the education I’m going to get said it all for me.”

Hill said he intends to study business. Hill will be the second West graduate on the Navy team, joining 2007 graduate Warren Fischer, a sophomore offensive tackle.

West coach Jimmy Fletcher said Navy “will be a great fit” for Hill.

Navy won an NCAA-record fourth-straight national rushing title and led the nation in graduation rate for a fourth-straight year.

Initially, Hill (5-foot-7, 185 pounds) was projected as a slot back, an important element in Navy’s rushing attack. (Last season senior slot back Shaun White gained 1,092 yards.)

But Hill may get a tryout at another position.

“When they started watching the tape,” Fletcher said, “they said he was probably the best quarterback they had seen in the nation at running the triple option that they had been recruiting. They said they may even look at him at quarterback.”

Hill said when he heard about that possibility, “I was pretty excited. That’s what I have been playing all through high school.”

Fletcher knows Buddy Green, Navy’s defensive coordinator. Green owns a house in the area, and the first time he saw Ryan was not in a football game but in a baseball game.

“Ryan hit a chopper and beat it out to first base, and (Green) said, ‘Jimmy, this is what we need.’ They have been recruiting him ever since.”

Navy finished 8-5 last season. Coach Ken Niumatalolo’s Midshipmen had a school-record sixth-straight Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. They beat a school-record four bowl teams and appeared in a school-record sixth-straight bowl game.

Hill, who will redshirt his first year at the Navy’s prep school in Rhode Island (standard for Navy football recruits), said he first learned of Navy’s interest in him about the middle of the football season.

“It really shocked me,” he said. “I had been watching them on TV, and I never thought I could play with them. I guess I was wrong.

“(Coach Green) has basically told me that I will get a chance to play. I’m going to great a education—and I’m going to be working my tail off.”

Hill visited the campus Friday. His advice to teammates and others who dream of playing Division I football: “Just play your heart out every game. Work hard in the classroom and do what you’re supposed to do and listen to your coaches.”

The most difficult part of recruiting process was “to tell the other colleges I going to sign with the Naval Academy. They have been so good to me. You hate to leave a college out in the open like that.”

Navy is a team that gets plenty of national exposure. The Army-Navy game is one of the annual highlights of the college football season.

“It’s going to motivate me to work harder,” Hill said.

Hill said Fletcher “has been a tremendous help. He has guided me the whole way. He has given me positive advice. He’s kept in touch with all the coaches for me. He’s looked out for me, made the highlight tape for me.”

Hill’s highlight tape is impressive, with several long runs. The one run that has gotten the most attention is his 90-yard run against Hoggard, a state championship team in 2007.

“That’s the one Coach Green was telling me about where they decided to try me out at quarterback,” Hill said.

But Hill takes only some of the credit.

“Great offensive line blocking,” he said. “I thank my teammates for allowing me to get to the position I am in now.”

MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at sports@brunswickbeacon.com.