NEWARK, Del. — Carson Hill didn’t have quite the career he wanted at Georgia Southern, but be believes he went out on a positive note, and hopefully will be looked upon as a guy who helped lay some building blocks for the program’s future success.
Hill, a cornerback from Milledgeville, was the only senior who played for the Eagles in Saturday’s 27-10 loss to Delaware in the FCS semi-finals.
It was not the way Hill or the Eagles wanted to go out, but it was certainly a lot better than the way he came in.
Georgia Southern was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference and — after a 20-10 loss to Samford seven weeks ago left it at 4-4 — was just hoping to have a winning season.
Instead, the Eagles rebounded the following week to upset No. 1 Appalachian State, 21-14, in overtime, and from there went on a six game winning streak that took them to the precipice of playing for a seventh national championship.
Those dreams died at frigid Delaware Stadium Saturday as the Blue Hens took advantage of five Georgia Southern turnovers to earn the right to play Eastern Washington for the national championship on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Tx.
"Coming in I was coming into a good program," Hill said. "I expected to win a lot of games."
The program which Hill was recruited to play in was nothing remotely resembling those Georgia Southern juggernauts he had heard and read about since middle school.
Those were the teams of Paul Johnson who won two national championships, lost once in the title game and made the playoffs every year while winning five straight SoCon titles.
Johnson, with nothing left to accomplish, left after five years taking current Eagle coach Jeff Monken with him.
The program made the playoffs three of the next four years. However, two first round losses, the latter coming in 2005, cost Mike Sewak his job.
Brian Van Gorder was hired, and the first thing he did was dump the triple option, deride the yellow school buses and a lot of other elements surrounding the program.
In reflection it seemed that legendary coach Erk Russell may have had a premonition as to what was coming. He died on the eve of Van Gorder’s first game.
After a 3-8 season which ended with five straight losses, Van Gorder, now the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, abandoned ship.
Hill was a member of Van Gorder’s lone recruit class, and he had no idea the nightmare he was walking into.
Over his first four years at Georgia Southern — he missed last season due to academic issues — the Eagles were 21-23. Hardly what he envisioned coming out of Baldwin County High School.
However, this season erased a lot of those painful memories. This will be the year Carson Hill will remember what it was like to be a football player on a winning team.
When Monken came in from Georgia Tech he re-established the triple option offense, and as the season progressed it began to pay major dividends which culminated in this year’s trip to the semis.
However, as a defensive player to Hill the triple option was just something he had to defend every day in practice.
What he saw was a culture change, and players — many of whom were now on their third head coach — buying into what the new coach and his staff were selling.
And, Hill thinks it’s only going to get better. What this year’s team achieved is only the beginning.
"My first year we were 3-8 and it seemed to go downhill from there," Hill said. "Coach Monken comes in and we get to the semi-finals.
"I can’t find words to explain that," Hill said. "They (the coaches) believed in me, and every other player on this team.
"Great things are going to come here. Watch out."
Hill’s college football career came to an end a week after he graduated. Now, he would like an opportunity to play at the next level like his brother, Leroy, who is the middle linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.
"I plan on staying in Statesboro, working out and doing everything I can to make myself better," Hill said. "I would like to put myself in a position for someone to take a look at me. I still want to play football."