Monster of the Midway Harlon Hill Passes Away

by Staff
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Courtesy of UNA

Courtesy of UNA

Florence – Local legendary Pro Football player, Brooks High School Coach and Principal, Harlon Hill passed away Thursday, he was 80 years old.  Hill was drafted by George “Papa Bear” Halas, Coach of the NFL’s Chicago Bears after being selected as the first All American from Florence Teachers College, now The University of North Alabama.  Being drafted out of a small teachers’ college in North Alabama was unheard of in 1954.  His circus style catches on the field were talked about in all of the major newspapers at the time.  In his rookie season he caught 45 passes for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns and earned him “Rookie of the Year.”  He still holds the Chicago Bears team records for most receiving yards and the most touchdown receptions by a rookie. In 1955 he was awarded the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the best player in the league.  In 1955 – 1957 he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl and was team captain for the West squad in 1956. He played most of his career with the Chicago Bears and played his final season for both the Pittsburg Steelers and Detroit Lions.

After retiring from professional football he returned home to Lauderdale County and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and into the University of North Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 1986 Hill was approached by Grady Liles about establishing a trophy for the best defensive playing in NCAA Division II football.  Liles wanted to name the trophy “The Harlon Hill Trophy” and include it in the proposal to bring the Division II championship game to Florence.  Hill was quoted as saying “It would be an honor if a national award was accepted with my name on it,” he went on to say “I was pleased with Grady for even thinking about getting something established like that.”  That was 1986, we know now that the Harlon Hill Trophy is a part of football history and is one of the most coveted awards in NCAA Division II football.

Hill returned to his alma mater the 1960’s serving as an assistant UNA football coach while earning his Master’s Degree in Education.  He became a public educator and served as football coach and Principal at Brooks High School in Killen.  He retired from the Lauderdale County School system and resided in the Killen area until his death.  Hill’s passing is being covered nationwide by all of the major media outlets and condolences have streamed in from around the country to his family.

Harlon Hill was a true hero for the Shoals area, having come from humble beginnings on a cotton farm in the Rogersville area and attaining fame and recognition in a game that consisted of players from big name colleges.  In the beginning Hill felt that he was not talented enough to play on the big stage of professional football, but after just a few exhibition games in his first season he figured out that he could indeed compete.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. at the Killen Church of Christ, funeral services will begin at 2 p.m. with burial at Tri-Cities Memorial Garden on Florence Blvd. in Florence.

Courtesy of UNA
Courtesy of Tribune Archives
Courtesy of Hall of Fame
Courtesy of UNA
Courtesy of UNA


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