“But they needed someone who was a good student, who had a good attitude and good temperament,” Hill said. “They needed the right guy, so to speak, because they knew they were taking a risk. If they got the wrong guy, you wouldn’t have seen another [African American player] at Maryland for a long time.”
Although Hill did well academically and in football at the Naval Academy (he was a standout wideout on the freshman team led by future NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach), he decided the regimen of the Navy wasn’t for him. Hill impressed Corso, who led the Terrapins’ freshman team to a victory over Navy in 1961, and Corso recruited Hill after he decided to transfer, selling him on the idea of a prominent role on the team and, as it turned out, history.
“There are no words to describe the pathfinder he was,” Corso said.
Following a strong junior year, Hill missed most of his senior season because of an injury. He briefly was a member of the New York Jets practice squad before becoming a highly successful entrepreneur, who had a variety of business interests in companies in California, Russia and China.
Now semi-retired (Hill is forming a foundation to make youth sports more accessible to low-income children) and his football career a fading memory, Hill, 68, continues to inspire African American athletes.
“A lot of guys wouldn’t have gotten a college degree, or at least as good of a college degree as the one from the University of Maryland, if it wasn’t for Darryl breaking down that barrier,” said Dominique Foxworth, president of the NFL Players Association. “But it’s more than just a barrier being broken down. It is a platform for a lot of guys to have great success.”
That’s what trailblazers are supposed to do, and the ’60s produced many like Hill. So the next time you cheer for today’s African American sports superstars, just stop for a minute and remember the pioneers who paved their way.
For columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.