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Justice Hill ‘Always Knew’ a Big Year Was a Possibility, Surpassed Gundy’s Expectations



The regular season is over and bowl season is upon us, so freshman running back Justice Hill is now free to speak with the media (Mike Gundy restricts media access to all of his first-year players).

Hill was asked about his expectations coming into his first year.

“At the beginning of the season I didn’t know if I was going to be playing that much and especially the first couple of games I was getting a couple of carries,” said Hill. “So, it was really a shock. I had my goals at the beginning of the season and I accomplished most of them. So, yeah. It was a good season.”

Even if he wasn’t sure how much playing time he would get, Hill definitely set steep goals for himself.

“I had my board and I wrote most of those goals down and I accomplished pretty much all of them. I always knew it was a possibility. I knew it was kind of far fetched when I was writing it down. I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to accomplish it, but you never set your goals short. So I just went out and worked every day and I accomplished it.”

Those goals may or not have included being named a freshman All-American, winning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and Offensive Freshman of the Year, earning All-Big 12 second-team honors or breaking the Cowboy rushing records for a freshman and a true freshman (which was previously held by Hall-of-Famer, Thurman Thomas).

“It’s been a great feeling but it’s nothing I haven’t felt before. I just come in. Practice. Play good. I’ll just continue to do that and help the team win games.”

During the TCU game, when Hill passed Thomas’ record for rushing yards by a true freshman, he got a tweet from the Hall-of-Famer.

“That was pretty cool. Yeah, when I looked at the notification, it was pretty cool, yeah. I had to get him back.”

With such a loaded group at running back, it seemed Hill may be destined for red-shirt status his first year. But word came out of fall camp that Hill was making a splash.

“I had a sense that things were going well. Our scrimmages, I was doing well,” Hill said. “Our practices, I was doing well. I didn’t know what the actual game was going to be like. Coming in the first couple of games I didn’t get too many carries or whatever but I wasn’t too shocked at it but I just wanted to keep working, coming in every day and show myself.”

Show himself, he did. Hill’s 1,042 yards are the most by an OSU running back since Joseph Randle’s 1,417 back in 2012 and the most ever for a freshman in Stillwater. Mike Gundy said Hill even surpassed what he thought No. 27 was capable of.

“He’s been a really good player for us, especially at the position he is as a true freshman,” said Gundy. “He exceeded my expectations for how productive he could be his first season.

“First off, I think he’s more talented than some people would have thought, just based on if you put stock into level of recruiting stars or whatever people may use to try to predict a level a player may perform at. Second, he has a very good mental approach to the game. It allows him to be more mature mentally than most young players. That’s helped him adjust to the play of this level. Third, he’s very humble. He’s not concerned with carries, yards, or necessarily what people think about him. He just enjoys being on the team. Those are pretty key ingredients to a young player having success.”

The other big story in the Cowboy running game this year was the resurgence of Chris Carson. After missing four games due to a hand injury early in the year, Carson finished the season playing the best football of his career. In the last four games, Carson amassed 379 yards on 8.2 yards per carry and rushed for five touchdowns.

Hill was happy to have the help.

“It was great, you know, not having to be out there every play. Chris is a great running back, him being able to show off his skills too. It was just a great balance, me and Chris, was able to put up good numbers and help the team win games.”

With an Alamo Bowl game just over a week away and with his star quarterback and receiver returning for their senior seasons, Hill and the Cowboys give OSU fans a lot look forward to.

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