By BRIAN CUNNIFF
A Division II running back hailing from a town of about 5,000 year-round residents and a high school that is among the smallest in its state stole the show at a college football all-star game that featured scores of highly-touted Division I players.
Wesley Hills, a 2013 graduate of Wildwood High School, ran 10 times for 79 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort in the National team’s 10-7 loss to the American team in Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Hills, who completed a record-breaking season at Slippery Rock University in December, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The game was broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1.
Hills scored the National team’s lone touchdown on a four-yard run in the first quarter. He helped set up the score with a 28-yard run earlier in the drive.
Asked at halftime during the FS1 broadcast about Hills, National team coach Mike Tice said what he liked most about Hills was “his physicality. He’s not afraid of contact. He runs behind his pads. He’s a tall guy, kind of reminds me of (retired Vikings running back) Robert Smith. … He’s done a great job here all week.”
Hills also stood out on a few special teams plays during the game.
“He dominated the game when he had the ball in his hands and if you watched, you saw him flying around on special teams and working hard all over the field. … We’re thrilled for him and we can’t wait to keep seeing his progress,” Slippery Rock coach Shawn Lutz said in a story on the school’s athletics website.
Collegiate Bowl rosters were made up of some of the top senior players across the country. Most hailed from Division I programs.
Hills turned heads in the week leading up to the game through his performance in practice. After impressing over the first few days of Collegiate Bowl practice, Hills was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next Saturday. The Senior Bowl is considered the top senior showcase game in the country and will include many of the top senior college players in the country.
Hills is on the radar of most NFL teams in preparation for the 2019 NFL Draft in late April. One website that closely follows NFL Draft prospects, walterfootball.com, recently had Hills listed as the ninth-best running back in this year’s draft class.
After playing three seasons at Delaware, Hills joined Slippery Rock’s team for the 2018 season and set a new program record with 1,714 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing two games and most of another due to injury. He led Slippery Rock to an 11-3 overall record that included a pair of victories in the Division II playoffs.
Hills set Wildwood High School records during his senior season in 2012 by rushing for 2,107 yards and 35 touchdowns.