Calvin Hill

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Calvin Hill
Calvin Hill in the Cleveland Browns locker room around 1979
No. 35
Position: Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1947-01-02) January 2, 1947 (age 68)
Place of birth: Baltimore, Maryland
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 227 lb (103 kg)
Career information
High school: Bronx (NY) Riverdale Country
College: Yale
NFL draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards: 6,083
Average: 4.2
Touchdowns: 42
Stats at
Stats at

Calvin G. Hill (born January 2, 1947) is a retired American football running back who had a 12-year NFL career from 1969 to 1981. He played for the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns. In 1975 he played for The Hawaiians of the World Football League. He was named to the Pro Bowl team four times (1969, 1972, 1973 and 1974). In 1972 he became the first Cowboy running back to have a 1,000-yard rushing season (with 1,036 yards rushing); he repeated the feat in the following season with 1,142 yards rushing.

Early years[edit]

Prior to attending ninth grade, Hill was awarded a scholarship to attend the Riverdale Country School in The Bronx, New York. At Riverdale he was an accomplished athlete in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field, often leading teams that defeated athletic arch-rival Horace Mann School and other Ivy Preparatory School League opponents in the metropolitan New York City-area.

He was introduced to organized footba]] at Riverdale, where he was named the starting quarterback as a sophomore, running the T formation in a program that was undefeated for eight seasons, 1958 through 1965 and was led by head coach Frank Bertino.[1] He quarterbacked the team during the 1963, 1964 and 1965 seasons.

Hill, a highly touted high school football talent, decided to attend Yale and try to become the first black quarterback in school history after visiting the campus. He acknowledged a desire to play in a stadium with a large seating capacity, and was impressed by the large crowd, over 70,000, watching Yale play Dartmouth at the Yale Bowl during the visit. He was an honors student at the secondary school.[2]

College career[edit]

The second day of practices at Yale, the coaching staff shifted him to linebacker on the freshman team and gave the quarterback job to Brian Dowling. After four days at linebacker he was moved to halfback, where he remained for the rest of his football career.

Along with Dowling, he led the 1968 Yale team to an undefeated season, although the last game of the season resulted in a dramatic 29-29 tie at Harvard University. During his three years as a starter, the team posted records of 4-5, 8-1 and 8-0-1. In addition, Hill also played tight end and linebacker in some games.

He was an outstanding college athlete, and was a sprinter and jumper for the track team. He still holds the school record for the outdoor triple jump. He was both the 1967 and 1968 long jump and triple jump Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Track & Field Champion.[3]

Hill graduated from Yale in 1969, finishing with 1,512 rushing yards, 858 receiving yards and 298 passing yards, during a three-year varsity career.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Hill was selected 24th overall in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, becoming the first player from an Ivy League school drafted in the first round. At the time this selection was widely questioned, because teams did not think they could find professional players at higher education colleges.[4]

The Cowboys drafted him as an athlete, so he spent his first few days in training camp as a linebacker and tight end.[5] He got his chance at playing halfback in the second exhibition game, because the team was experiencing problems at running back during that training camp. Don Perkins, the fourth leading rusher in NFL history had just formally announced his retirement, Dan Reeves the starter at halfback was struggling after having off-season knee surgery and his backup Craig Baynham had bruised ribs.

He never relinquished his starting job and when the regular season started, even though he was a rookie, he became a dominant player in the league. Through the first nine games of the season, he was the best running back in the NFL with 807 rushing yards. However, he hurt his toe while rushing for a team record 150 yards in a 41-28 victory over the Washington Redskins in the ninth game of the season. The team didn't know the extent of the injury, so he missed the next 2 games. When it was later revealed that it was broken, Hill played the last 2 games with a broken toe that required an injection before every practice and game.

He finished his rookie season with 942 rushing yards (4. 6 yard average) and 8 touchdowns. He was also received NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.[6]

The Cowboys drafted Duane Thomas in the first round of the 1970 NFL Draft, because the team was not confident that Hill had recovered during the off season. He also had complications from an infected blister in the same foot that kept him in the hospital for more than a month. Nine games into the 1970 season, he suffered a back injury and didn't play much the rest of the year, finishing with 577 rushing yards while averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

In 1971, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament against the New York Giants, that was initially diagnosed as a sprained knee. He missed six games and tried to play again in the NFC Championship game, but hurt his knee again scoring a touchdown.[7]

In 1972, after the Cowboys traded Duane Thomas to the San Diego Chargers, he became the first running back in franchise history to surpass the 1,000 yard mark and proved he could still run the football. He finished with 1,045 yards and a 4.2 yard average and 6 touchdowns. He followed that up, breaking his own team record with 1,142 yards and six touchdowns during the 1973 season.

Hill played in Dallas for 6 seasons helping the Cowboys win 1 Super Bowl and 2 NFC Championship games. He had some superb years with the team, making four Pro Bowls (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974) and two All-Pro teams (1969, 1973).

The Hawaiians (WFL)[edit]

On April 9, 1974, he signed a contract with The Hawaiians of the World Football League.[8] He played in three games, carrying the ball 49 times for 218 yards and no touchdowns, before suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.[9] When the league folded, he returned to the NFL.

Washington Redskins[edit]

In 1976, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins,[10] but he could not recapture his previous playing level. In two seasons as a backup running back, he rushed for 558 yards and caught 25 passes, before announcing his retirement at the start of the 1978 season.[11]

Cleveland Browns[edit]

The Cleveland Browns convinced him to unretire and signed him to a contract on September 25, 1978.[12] He played four seasons mostly as a third-down running back, before retiring at the end of the 1981 season.[13]

Hill played in the NFL for 12 seasons, recording 6,083 rushing yards, 42 rushing touchdowns, 2,861 receiving yards and 23 receiving touchdowns.

Personal life[edit]

Calvin Hill speaks to students at the Riverdale Country School in 2014

His wife, Janet Hill, is a graduate of Wellesley College, where she shared a suite with Hillary Rodham Clinton. They are the parents of retired NBA player Grant Hill. Hill was the 1969 NFL Rookie of the Year. Twenty six years later, his son Grant would share the 1995 NBA Rookie of the Year award with Jason Kidd.

Hill currently sits on the boards of several organizations, works as a corporate motivational speaker, and works for the Dallas Cowboys organization as a consultant who specializes in working with troubled players. Additionally, Hill is a consultant to the Cleveland Browns Football Club and Alexander & Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C. corporate consulting firm. As a consultant with the Cleveland Browns, he helped form a group of Cleveland Browns' players to control and eliminate drug and alcohol-related problems. Hill has written several articles on sports and academia for national publications, makes appearances at university campuses and business firms, throughout the United States. He addresses several topics including the problem of drugs and alcohol and the work needed in this area, and the important relationship of sports and academia. [14]

The Calvin Hill Day Care Center in New Haven is named in his honor and is available to Yale University families from all economic levels.[15]


External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Dick Anderson
Bob Johnson
Donna A. Lopiano
Donald A. Schollander
Stan Smith
Wyomia Tyus
Silver Anniversary Awards (NCAA)
Class of 1994
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Lee Evans
Calvin Hill
William C. Hurd
Leroy Keyes
Jim Ryun
Succeeded by
Lesley Bush
Larry Echohawk
Kwaku Ohene-Frempong
Bob Lanier
Mike Phipps
Mike Reid