- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

MIAMI Shaun Hill would have been thrilled to play quarterback at Division II Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.
That dream was never realized. Instead, the Kansas native will have to settle for quarterbacking sixth-ranked Maryland in the Orange Bowl before a packed Pro Player Stadium crowd and a prime-time national television audience Wednesday night.
"It's unbelievable how far I've come," said Hill, who had no offers to play quarterback at a four-year school coming out of high school. "I was talking to my dad about that the other night. If Washburn had offered [a chance], there is no question I would have taken it and thought it was the greatest. If Washburn or Pittsburg State had offered [a chance], I would have stayed locally."
The Parsons High graduate was forced to go to junior college to pursue his quarterbacking dreams. The now savvy senior was recently named second-team All-ACC after leading Maryland to its first conference title in 16 seasons.
"It just goes to show you about recruiting," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "If you could evaluate heart … he had the physical tools. He's a big guy (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) that runs pretty well. He doesn't have the greatest arm in the world but he has enough."
Hill will be remembered by Terrapins fans for executing the last-minute drive at N.C. State that led to Maryland capturing the ACC title outright and ultimately landed it in the Orange Bowl. He completed seven of 10 passes including a fourth-down connection to Bruce Perry in a 61-yard drive, that concluded with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Guilian Gary with 41 seconds left. That gave the Terps a 23-19 victory and sent Maryland into a state of nirvana.
Washburn did offer Hill a scholarship, but only as a punter who might play safety. His only other four-year option was at Pittsburg State, which wanted him to be a punter and tight end. The only way he could continue as a quarterback was to go to junior college, so off to Hutchinson (Kan.) College he went.
"He really didn't talk that much about it," said Hill's mother, Trudy, recalling Shaun's demeanor at the time. "He didn't show disappointment. He showed perseverance."
Hill knew he could play quarterback at a higher level and didn't want to regret not pursuing any chance.
"I was fairly intelligent and a good leader and had the physical tools," said Hill, who completed 60 percent of his passes this season with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. "People saw my size and didn't think I had any speed. I didn't understand that, because I ran a 10.8 [seconds] in the 100-yard dash in track. No one believed it."
Hill, who also ran for 309 yards and seven touchdowns, was one of seven quarterbacks competing for the starting job at Hutchinson. He made the All-Jayhawk Conference team as a freshman and started gaining attention from Division I programs. He recalls Kansas and Tulsa wanting him to transfer after his first season, but he felt an obligation to Hutchinson and decided to stay.
That almost proved costly since he had he had no scholarship offers by the time the regular season ended despite throwing for 1,688 yards and rushing for 370 while leading his team to an 7-3 record and a berth in Valley of the Sun Bowl. Tulsa and Kansas had disappeared. Hill felt the Arizona bowl might be the highlight of his short college career.
"I was really thinking I wasn't going to play anymore," Hill said. "At the point, I really didn't want to play Division II. I figured I would just go somewhere and get my degree."
During bowl preparations, Hill finally received offers from South Carolina and Maryland. Mike Gundy, then a Terps assistant coach, was in Kansas looking for a junior college cornerback when he was told he should look at the quarterback. Maryland quickly became enamored, and Hill committed shortly after a December visit to College Park, canceling a trip to South Carolina.
"It's been history with Shaun that good luck has followed," said Trudy Hill, who remembers her son leading his Babe Ruth League baseball team to state titles as a shortstop and pitcher. "He learned so much and matured in junior college. It didn't seem ideal at the time. But in the end, it turned out right."
The Hills now see the detour through Hutchinson as a blessing that prepared Shaun to excel at college football's top level. It isn't lost on Shaun that he has gone from a quarterback no one wanted to a star playing in one of the sports' major showcases.
"Now that it's wrapping up, I see how far I've come," he said. "I'm real appreciative of the breaks I've had a lot of people that have helped me. I've had great coaches throughout my career. I've taken a lot of looks back from where I've been and where I came from. I'm very proud of that."

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