By Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
PIQUA — Wednesday was a very special day in the Piqua High School commons.
PHS senior Riley Hill, the son of Joe and Misty Hill, was not just another signing.
When the 6-foot-7, 323-pound offensive tackle signed his letter of intent to play for Urbana University and former PHS standout quarterback Tyler Haines, it was also the continuation of the playing career of what many would describe as a walking miracle.
During a routine pre-school physical at the age of five, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. They found a massive hole in his heart during open-heart surgery.
Hill actually had no symptoms and no murmur at all and doctors said at the time if it hadn’t been discovered, it would have been fatal if he had played sports.
“This means a lot,” Hill said about signing his letter of intent Wednesday. “I think it does (give him a different apprectiation of the opportunity to play the game). After going through heart issues and having heart surgery.”
Hill never played organized football until the sixth grade.
But, once he stepped on a football field, he knew it was the place for him.
“They held me out until the sixth grade,” Hill said about his doctors. “But, from the time I played, I loved it. Being bigger than everyone else, it was a great place to take out my anger with controlled aggression.”
And while Hill has battled injuries throughout his high school career, he had a breakout season this fall.
He paved the way to Piqua having third-ranked rushing attack the MVLwith 2,058 yards rushing.
He was named first team All-MVL, first team All-Southwest District and third-team All-Ohio.
“Really, this is the first year Riley (Hill) was completely healthy,” Piqua football coach Bill Nees said. “And you saw what he could do.”
And Nees said his future is bright, playing for Haines.
“Tyler (Haines) and I are pretty similar in the things we do,” Nees said. “He may have to work on the scheme and I am sure the footwork will probably be a little different, but he has the size and they will get him in the weight room.”
Hill knew Urbana was the place for him.
“Tyler (Haines) and so did (assistant) Tommy Heffelfinger,” Hill said. “And the big thing is the offensive line coach Jim Cordle. I knew he played for Ohio State and he has a Super Bowl ring, so that is pretty impressive.”
Cordle picked up a Super Bowl ring while playing for the New York Giants.
“I think when you are being coached by a guy with a Super Bowl ring, you know you are probably going to get some pretty good coaching,” Nees said.
Urbana is coming off a 7-4 season as Haines has turned the program around.
“They are coming off a good season,” Hill said. “Hopefully, my class will continue that. It is good that they are winning, but even if they weren’t, I think Urbana would have been the place for me.”
Hill, who also plays basketball for Piqua, is looking forward to the next challenge.
“They will get me in the weight room and get my diet right,” Hill said. “I never expected to play college football. Looking back, I feel like if I had taken things more seriously in the previous couple years, I probably could have gone D-I. But, I am excited about the opportunity to play for Urbana.”
And he made it official on very special day Wednesday.