Prominent & Dominant: Nicholas' Hill reaching next level
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When it comes to Nicholas County's Austin Hill, European football's loss was American football's gain.
Hill, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior, played soccer during his early years and didn't don football pads until his final year in grade school.
"I used to play soccer until the fifth grade," Hill said. "In the fifth grade my size was outgrowing the sport, so I put the pads on and went from there."
Now a dominant defensive and offensive lineman, there's no doubt that Hill made a wise decision.
Hill earned second team Class AA All-State honors as a defensive lineman in 2012 and is a Daily Mail Preseason All-State defensive lineman. He spent much of the summer attending camps around the country.
Hill, who holds a 3.7 grade-point average, attended a National Underclassmen combine in Pennsylvania, where he did well enough to earn an invitation to the Ultimate 100 camp in Delaware. From there he participated in an Elite Prospect camp in Norman, Okla.
"He has been working extremely hard during the offseason," Nicholas County Coach Gene Morris said. "He's quite a leader for our football team.
"He's our center and he anchors our offensive line and he's our nose guard and he anchors our defensive line."
Hill also gets to return to his soccer roots while serving as the Grizzlies' placekicker and punter.
"I'm not off the field very often," Hill said. "The only time I come off is on kick return and we haven't put that in yet, so I'm not sure if I'm on that team this year or not.
"I never want to come off the field. I just love to play the game."
Hill, in just his second season at center, has quickly earned the trust of the Grizzlies' coaching staff.
"He calls the even and odd fronts and we let him control that part of the game so that everybody will get their keys," Morris said. "We trust him to be able to make those line calls and put us in a good scheme as far as blocking goes.
"He's a guy that the other kids listen to. He doesn't say a whole lot. He just works his tail off and leads by example, but when he decides he has something to say, everybody pays attention and kind of rallies around him.
"He's a really good leader who is very intelligent about our blocking schemes and what needs to be done. Some of the younger guys lean on him for advice and he takes it from there."
Hill also plays basketball for the Grizzlies and the footwork he's developed on the court helps him in the trenches.
"I think everybody has a little mean streak in them, but my footwork is important," Hill said. "I like to be able to read offensive linemen. It takes me a few plays to get a feel for them, but once I read them, I try to figure out if I can beat them with my footwork and speed or if I need to use my strength.
"If a lineman can beat me with their feet, I try to just use my strength to bull rush into the play and just try to blow it up. If they can't catch me, I use that against them. I use my speed about 95 percent of the time."