PITTSBURGH — Steel Valley’s Todd Hill is a throwback to a different era.
Flip on the linebacker’s highlight tape and you’ll observe a gridiron gladiator reminiscent of the ones depicted in old NFL Films. A menacing, fearless defensive presence that relishes handing out punishment.
“Hitting someone and getting excited after the play is so much fun,” Hill admits.
If his weekly highlights were set to a classic Sam Spence score, no one would think different. He’s averaging an astonishing 16 tackles per game and leads the Ironmen with 65 total tackles through four contests.
— ☦odd ♓️ill (@Toddhill_9) September 23, 2018
What’s even more confounding is his ability to generate so much power from his 5-foot-10, 226-pound frame.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve always been a physical player,” Hill said. “I always wanted to hit, run the ball, knock people over. Everything I’ve done since I was younger was with the same type of physicality.”
In youth football, Hill typically lined up at running back, but as a freshman he was given an opportunity to play linebacker and ran away with it. He started every game at inside backer as a sophomore, helping guide Steel Valley to WPIAL and PIAA Class 2A championships. Hill followed it up by logging double-digit tackles in all 12 of Steel Valley’s games last year. He best describes himself as a “run-stopper, an anchor in the middle of the field.”
Despite the gaudy numbers, you’ll have to scroll down a ways to find his name on recruiting lists. 247 Sports lists him as the 56th best prospect in that state. From a scout’s perspective, his size—particularly his height—is a red flag, yet the film reveals a calculated and bruising sniper.
He tracks the ball extremely well and flashes great closing speed. Should he break through the line of scrimmage untouched, ball carriers can only brace themselves for blunt force trauma.
“I really don’t care about my size,” Hill said. “Play against me, and you’ll see that really don’t matter. It’s all about how you play. Rankings and all that don’t matter.”
The Howard University commit expects a lot of himself and his teammates. Once inside the white lines, Hill only has one setting.
“I’m a hard worker, and I expect a lot out of the people I play with,” Hill said. “I expect you to give it your all, because I’m giving it my all. Everything is about trust with me on the field.”
When not starring on defense, Hill is trucking over poor defensive backs as part of Steel Valley’s dual running attack. Hill and teammate Kameron Williams have combined for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns on just 111 carries.
— ☦odd ♓️ill (@Toddhill_9) September 8, 2018
In the team’s 35-7 win over Avonworth in Week 1, the senior took a handoff around the right side and bulldozed an oncoming safety, turning a five-yard carry into an easy first down. He’s rushed for 430 yards and is averaging a touchdown every four carries (32 rushes).
Duquesne and Robert Morris recruited the Homestead native, but Hill always dreamed of attending a historical black college. Howard best felt like home to him, and he looks forward to pursuing a degree in either business or sports management. He hopes to one day to work for Apple or Google.
Howard head coach Mike London might be getting one of the best-kept secrets in Western Pennsylvania. Players of Hill’s caliber and tenacity are rare nowadays.
“They love how physical I am and when I hit someone how they go backwards,” Hill said of their evaluation. “They love the type of player I am.”
Steel Valley recently had its 24-game regular season winning season streak snapped by Shady Side, but the linebacker has a great perspective.
“It’s about how you bounce back,” Hill said.
The same can be said for opposing ball carriers.