Harlon Hill dies; all-pro receiver with Chicago Bears


In this Dec. 21, 1954 file photo, Chicago Bears football player Harlon Hill poses for a portrait. Hill, the former star receiver for the Bears whose name adorns the NCAA Division II college football player of the year trophy, died Thursday, March 21, 2013, at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence, Ala., after a lengthy illness, said Jeff Hodges, chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee. He was 80. (Associated Press)
March 22, 2013

Harlon Hill, 80, a former all-pro receiver for the Chicago Bears whose name adorns the NCAA Division II player-of-the-year trophy, died March 21 at a hospital in Florence, Ala.

Jeff Hodges, chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee, confirmed his death but did not disclose the cause.

Mr. Hill joined the Bears in 1954 and became the first recipient of the Jim Thorpe Trophy as the NFL Rookie of the Year.

As a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver, he caught 45 passes in his rookie season and led the National Football League with 12 touchdown receptions and an average of 25 yards per catch in a 12-game season.

He also led the league in touchdown catches in 1955, with nine, and in yards per catch in 1956. He was a first-team all-pro in 1955 and 1956.

Mr. Hill played eight seasons with the Bears, and his 4,616 receiving yards and 40 touchdown receptions still rank second in team history. He had 19 games of at least 100 yards in receptions, the most for any Bears receiver. His 214 receiving yards against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 31, 1954, are still a team record.

His four touchdown receptions in that game are tied with Mike Ditka for the most in a single game by a Chicago receiver. Mr. Hill briefly played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions before retiring in 1962.

Mr. Hill was a graduate of Florence State Teachers College, now the University of North Alabama. He received a master’s degree in education from the university in 1969.

After his football career, he returned to his hometown of Killen, Ala., where he taught and coached at Brooks High School, eventually becoming the school’s principal.

In 1986, the Harlon Hill Trophy, presented annually to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division II College Football Player of the Year, was named in Mr. Hill’s honor.

— News services and staff reports

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