When you think of the greatest wide receivers in Ohio State history, names like Cris Carter, Ted Ginn, Michael Jenkins, Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway, and Santonio Holmes might come to mind.
Just in the past decade, you might think of guys like Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, or Parris Campbell.
But OSU senior wideout K.J. Hill is on the verge of doing something none of those legends ever did.
Hill is just 10 catches away from setting the Ohio State career record for receptions. He enters the Senior Day game against Penn State with 182 career receptions, within sight of Boston’s school record of 191.
“It’s crazy to have my name in that boat with all the great wide receivers that have played here,” Hill said Wednesday. “That’s some legacy that I left here, so I’m pretty proud of it.
While Hill has never been the highest-profile member of Zone 6, he has quietly produced a remarkable Buckeye career.
In addition to being No. 2 on the career receptions list, Hill is currently 8th all-time in receiving yards, and is tied for 12th in school history with 16 career touchdowns.
But there might not be a better encapsulation of Hill’s career than the fact that he’s caught at least one pass in 44 consecutive games. If the Buckeyes play all five possible remaining games, Hill has a chance to break that school record (48) as well. How is that possible?
Ryan Day says Hill does all the little things right.
“I think K.J. just got a tremendous way of just playing the game. He’s got great body language for a quarterback,” Day said this week. “Certain receivers, they know how to get open and they know how to talk to the quarterback with their body language. He understands space, he knows how to get open, he’s crafty, he’s been around, he’s clutch.”
While Hill might not have ever been the biggest star on the team, his career has been filled with highlights.
His one-handed touchdown grab against Minnesota last year is a play Buckeye fans likely won’t forget any time soon.
His fourth-quarter touchdown catch helped put the 2018 Michigan game away for good.
But he has seemingly saved his best games for Penn State.
Hill caught a career-high 12 passes for 102 yards in the comeback win over the Nittany Lions in 2017, then scored the winning touchdown on a 24-yard pass with just two minutes left at Penn State in 2018.
Even as his number of receptions has dropped this year, has continued to serve as an example in the wide receiver room.
“The spotlight is on him because he’s a team captain and one of the more decorated receivers in the history of the school and his production speaks for itself,” Day said. “But he is kind of a leader by example in the way he goes about his business.”
One example of that: Just minutes before what would be a 76-5 blowout over Miami, Hill and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline were in the tunnel just outside the locker room. There was Hill, already one of the leading receivers in school history, and about to face a five-touchdown underdog, catching balls out of the Jugs machine.
What does it take to become the leading receiver in OSU history? This is K.J. Hill squeezing in a little extra work on the Jugs machine a few minutes before the game. pic.twitter.com/BUmw9oOi1N
— Tom Orr (@TomOrr4) September 21, 2019
He’s been around long enough that he was a teammate with players like Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and Michael Thomas as a true freshman.
Saturday, Hill will run out of the tunnel at Ohio Stadium for the final time. He said that doesn’t yet quite seem real.
“I know if we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ve got a lot of ball left, so it really ain’t hit me yet,” Hill said.
Hill is close with the trio of receivers who left OSU after the 2018 season; Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon. He could have left last off-season for the NFL as well, but chose to play one more year in scarlet and gray.
Now, his legacy may go far beyond his spot in the record books. Day said Hill’s impact also includes what he has taught the younger receivers.
“How space works and how to get open and how to find the open window and how to win against man-to-man and all those things,” Day said. “That’s K.J. He’s left a lot of that in that room and there’s a lot of those younger guys that have learned from him this year.”