Harlon Hill, a former wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and whose name is on the trophy for the NCAA Division II player of the year, died recently. He was 80.
The chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, Jeff Hodges, told The Associated Press that he died in an Alabama hospital after battling a long illness.
Hill played for the Bears between 1954 to 1961 and was voted Rookie of the Year in 1954. He was also a three-time All-Pro selection. In his rookie season, he got 45 receptions and set the Bears single-season receiving record with 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, according to the Bears website.
He currently ranks second on the Bears’ all-time receiving list with 4,616 yards.
Hill was also the first winner of the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the NFL’s most valuable player in 1955.
He spent his final season in 1962 with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions. After football, he was a public high school teacher and coach in Alabama, and he resided there until he died.
“We didn’t have a TV in Piedmont, so we’d go over to another person’s house and watch,” Ronnie Thomas, a former sports writer a the TimesDaily, told the Decatur Daily. “It seemed like the Bears were always playing. Because Harlon was from Alabama, I kind of latched onto him. I had bubble gum cards on my wall and everything.”
The Harlon Hill Trophy has been presented in Florence, Ala., for the past 27 years a day before the Division II championship game, AP points out.