Army junior Walter Hill rode an emotional roller-coaster through the Air Force football matchup two weeks ago, playing the game of his life in a 27-24 upset victory just 11 days after the death of his mother, Barbara, after a long fight with cancer.
In 10 days, the wide receiver, who played at St. Paul's School, faces another emotional tug-of-war in the Army-Navy game. The Commander in Chief's Trophy is on the line, and Army has won four straight under second-year coach Bobby Ross.
These are exciting times around West Point for a suddenly rejuvenated Army program and its gifted receiver, who is second on the team with 30 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns.
However, no matter how big the game or the moment, Hill said thoughts of his mother will always be in the back of his mind.
"Football can take your mind off your studies or whatever else is happening at the academy," Hill said. "But my mom will always be there in my mind."
Hill has not only lost a major part of his football life, but he's lost his close confidante and shoulder to lean on in tough times.
"She was the first one I called when I came home from a road game," said the former All-Baltimore City/Baltimore County first-team pick. "She came to every Army home game and every one of my games at St. Paul's. I talked to her after every game I played anywhere."
The first game the 6-foot, 190-pounder played after his mother's Oct. 25 death was at Air Force and will be forever etched in Hill's memory.
"I know she was looking over me that day," said Hill of Army's first win in 28 years in Colorado Springs.
He accomplished feats on the football field that Saturday afternoon that even he had trouble believing. Hill was open so much that quarterback Zac Dahman kept going back to him for seven receptions for a career-high 114 yards.
"Everything was clicking and somehow I felt my mom's presence with every move I made," he said. "I was wearing a T-shirt with her picture on it, and I'll wear it every game I play the rest of my career."
Ross called Hill a "true professional" after his big game.
In full swing
High Point (N.C.) sophomore Kim Daniels (Dulaney) had a strong finish at the Stanford Intercollegiate women's golf tournament, shooting 82, 74 and 74 for a three-round total of 230.
Daniels led High Point this season with an average score of 78.0, which placed her No. 11 in the Big South Conference.
Contact Bill Free by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 410-833-5349.