KJ Hill’s first catch as a Buckeye was a 47-yard touchdown in the season opener against Bowling Green in 2016. He has added 141 more since that catch, which now puts him seventh all-time in OSU history. He is two catches in front of Santonio Holmes, and one behind good friend Parris Campbell.
Campbell is now gone, however, as are Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon. All three are headed to the NFL. Hill entered 2018 as a fourth-year junior, thinking it could be his last at Ohio State as well.
Losing all four after last season would have been tough to swallow for OSU receivers coach Brian Hartline, which is why he breathed a sigh of relief when Hill decided to put the NFL on hold and return for one final season in the Scarlet and Gray.
“Yeah, of course. But I think it was the best thing for him,” Hartline said. “It wasn’t that I tricked a guy, that’s not what it was. It was the best thing for him and now this last year, to make that next step and get outside and learn the outside route tree and really what do the guys do on the outside that he never really does on the inside. Working those skills will be huge for him and he’s doing a phenomenal job both leading by example and communicating with the guys.”
Hill is now just 50 receptions away from the school’s all-time record, which is currently held by David Boston, who played from 1996-1998.
While a record like that would be nice to have, that’s not why Hill came back for his fifth-and-final season.
“I really came back because I wanted to make sure I did everything I could,” he said. “I only get this chance once in a lifetime. I just wanted to finish it out, do everything I can in school and on the field. I’m just taking this as my last go-around. Doing the little things right, trying to do everything right. Since I’m older, I’m wiser and I know there’s more things I’ve learned on the road and I can just emphasize those things.”
In coming back, KJ Hill will continue to make himself into a better player. The fine-tuning goes on every day. Crisper routes, better understanding of defenders, the simple building of muscle memory through all of it.
Hill will leave Ohio State after this season better than he is now, and that was a large reason for his return.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes will be better for it this season as well.
“I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t do,” Hartline said. “To me, he’s not going to be a Parris Campbell burner, but there’s a lot of things that he does that Parris maybe didn’t do, and he’s being a great leader.
“He’s growing up and I think that it’s an absolute pleasure and we’re blessed to have him back this year and I’m glad that he came back, to not only lead this group, but stay on my hip and just get better. K.J. Hill is in a phenomenal spot and he’s a staple right now in our receiver room.”