By BRIAN CUNNIFF
As he’s done numerous times at numerous levels over his football career, Wildwood High School graduate Wes Hills made the most of his opportunity Sunday.
Hills, brought into the active roster from the practice squad by the Detroit Lions due to various injuries to other running backs, recorded a pair of short touchdown runs in his NFL debut in the Lions’ 38-17 loss to Tampa Bay.
According to a social media post by the Lions, Hills is the first undrafted rookie running back in the NFL since the 1987 strike season to rush for two touchdowns in his first career game. He’s also just the third Lions running back to rush for two touchdowns in his first career NFL game, joining Billy Simms (1980) and Jahvid Best (2010).
“This is my dream,” Hills told the media after the game. “I dreamed about this since I was a kid. To be able to play with this group of guys and this coaching staff meant a lot to me. They put their all into me and I just wanted to go out there and prove them right.”
Hills scored both of his touchdowns on one-yard runs in the second half. He finished the day with 10 carries for 21 yards and also caught two passes for one yard.
“I thought, ‘(Bleep) I scored,’” Hills said when asked how he felt after crossing the goal line for the first time. “My biggest thing was to go out there and show everyone that I belong and show the team that I am here and do everything I can to help the team win.”
“I definitely felt like the rookie, for sure. It’s different. Coming from a small high school, then college and then playing on such a big stage, it means the world to me.
“To have this opportunity with the Lions … they’re the team that really believed in me. They stuck with me, they groomed me and they gave me this opportunity.”
Hills, who graduated from Wildwood in 2013 and played college football at Delaware and Division II Slippery Rock, was in the starting lineup for the game after being officially moved onto the active roster.
“I found out (he would start) yesterday,” said Hills, who was released with an injury settlement by the Arizona Cardinals out ot training camp before signing with the Lions in early October. “It damn near brought a tear to my eye.”
Tampa Bay entered the game with the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL.
“It wasn’t intimidating,” Hills said. “It was something I was really looking forward to. I wish I could’ve run better out there. Anybody would want to go up against the best of the best. To go up against the best, the No. 1 rushing defense … we really wanted to go out there and make something happen.”
Wes Hills — undrafted rookie hailing from one of the smallest high schools in the state of New Jersey — certainly did just that.