Until 11 weeks ago, Oklahoma State fans hoped that there would be two former Booker T. Washington superstars — Justice and Dax Hill — on the 2019 Cowboy football roster.
As it turns out, neither of the Hill brothers will be at OSU.
A five-star safety prospect, Dax committed to Michigan in mid-September.
A running back who had a chance to supplant Thurman Thomas as OSU’s career rushing leader, Justice announced on Monday that he will forfeit his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2019 NFL draft.
The story was broken on Twitter by Mike Gundy.
“Justice Hill and (offensive lineman) Larry Williams will not participate in the (Liberty Bowl) to pursue future endeavors,” Gundy tweeted. “We wish both young men the best moving forward.”
And with that, Justice Hill is a former Cowboy.
As for the trend in recent years of NFL draft-eligible players choosing not to play in bowl games: While it’s unseemly to leave teammates, it’s a business decision made by draft-eligible guys who want to avoid possible physical problems only a few weeks before the NFL combine.
Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette did it, and now it hits closer to home as Hill has chosen not to play in OSU’s Liberty Bowl clash with Missouri on New Year’s Eve.
The 2018 season was an uneven mess for the Cowboys. Inexplicably, Hill wasn’t used by Gundy and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as a dynamic playmaker typically is used.
It was expected that Hill would average 20 carries per game. In six games, he had no more than 15 carries.
It was expected that Hill would get a regular-season total of at least 1,400 yards. Instead, he didn’t even get 1,000. Because of injuries, he got only five attempts in Bedlam and did not play against West Virginia or at TCU.
As a junior, he finished with 930 yards.
It’s a nice total, but it’s not a Justice Hill total.
At one time, a 6-6 record would have triggered celebrations in Stillwater. Not anymore. The bar is set a lot higher than six. What a drag of a season for Oklahoma State: a .500 record for the nation’s most inconsistent team and now Hill’s departure.
During the preseason, it was believed that two of the better running backs in college football were in Oklahoma: Hill and OU’s Rodney Anderson, from whom there could have been a combined run of 3,000 yards. This should have been a special season for each of the Bedlam backs.
After sustaining a knee injury in September, Anderson retired from college football. As he heals, Anderson is preparing for a jump to the NFL. I feel disappointment both for Hill and Anderson, just like I felt disappointment for Dez Bryant in 2009.
As a sophomore, Hill ran for 1,467 yards. That’s why there was the All-American expectation this year.
As a sophomore in 2008, Bryant was tremendous. He finished with 87 catches for 1,480 yards, scored 19 touchdowns and was a phenom on punt returns. In advance of the 2009 season, he got national acclaim as an elite weapon.
Bryant barely had a 2009 season. After only three games, he was suspended by the NCAA. When the suspension was extended to a full year, he was finished at Oklahoma State.
The suspension resulted from Bryant having lied to an NCAA investigator, so his demise was self-inflicted. Still, it was sad to see the career of such a talented player unravel as it did. Hill’s circumstances are in no way comparable to Bryant’s, but Hill was expected to have a sensational 2018 just like Bryant was expected to have a sensational 2009.
Hill’s final numbers: a three-season total of 3,539 rushing yards (seventh all-time at OSU and 1,462 behind Thomas’ program record of 5,001), along with 30 rushing TDs and 20 performances of at least 100 yards.
There was a career average of 98.3 rushing yards per game. Only five backs finished their Cowboy careers with averages of at least 98 yards per game: Barry Sanders, Terry Miller, Thomas, David Thompson and Hill.
It’s a tremendous list. Hill distinguished himself as having been an important Cowboy.
Presumably, he still is recovering from ankle and rib injuries sustained during the final month of the season. Hill might not have been a factor in the Liberty Bowl, but you hate to see his college career end with a Gundy tweet instead of a touchdown.
This article originally ran on tulsaworld.com.