Hill has become an oustanding success story, after starting out his career as the Pickens point man for Team FYN Sports. Recently Team FYN Sports caught up with Hill and asked him about his career and budding responsibilties with the Red and Black.
What year are you going into at school?
I’m starting my senior year in the fall. I have three semesters left of school and will graduate in December 2016.
Why attend North Ga before attending UGA?
Coming from Pickens High School, which had around 1,000 students, I thought a small school would be a good way to start off. It helped ease the transition to college, and I loved my two years in Dahlonega. It definitely helped set me up for success at UGA.
When did you decide journalism was for you?
I’ve known since the eighth grade that I wanted to be a sports writer. People try to point you in a direction in middle school which can be a bit ridiculous, but I credit Keith Petty with leading me to journalism. He was my eighth grade English teacher, and I loved that class and the writing in it so much. He wrote occasionally for the paper, so it occurred to me that maybe writing about sports, something I’ve always loved and studied, was the way to go. I let him know my idea and pretty much followed it from there.
What was your favorite memory of the Dragons during your matriculation through Pickens County schools?
Probably watching the boys’ basketball team was our senior year. I think a lot of people counted them out because Jordan Shaw graduated the year before, but they played really well and went to state. Some of my best friends since I was a kid were on that team: Wesley Easterwood, Austin Murphy, Aries Johnson, Spencer Jones, Jake Ledbetter, Sam Crawford, etc. I’m sure I’ll be in trouble for leaving some names out, but it was fun just to be there and see them have success.
What was your favorite memory covering the Dragons?
Without a doubt, it’s the turnaround the football team had. In my four years as a student, the team won eight games. I have to give kudos to Kyle Rasco, the athletic director. He went out and hired Chris Parker from Chapel Hill. I was expecting to constantly re-write the sentence “The Dragons played tough but lost” each week, but that wasn’t the case. Coach Parker has built a consistent winner with Pickens, something that hasn’t happened since I was nine or 10.
What has been your favorite/most interesting moment covering UGA sports?
It’s still really early on in my covering Georgia sports. I’d say more than anything, it’s just been learning from the other writers at The Red & Black, the school’s student newspaper. You’d be amazed at how the paper is a collective group of students yet at the same time functions as professional workplace. Some of the best writing I’ve seen in the last year has come from students my age or even younger. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to get on staff there and learn from others.
How is covering a major school like UGA different than covering high school sports?
Access to players and statistics is incredibly easy compared to high school sports. If I really wanted to challenge a young writer, I’d send them to a school that they’ve never been to two hours from home and make them cover the game. To write up a Friday night game correctly, you better do your homework on Tuesday or Wednesday. Email and call coaches or athletic directors for information. Can you send me the roster? Could I talk to players after the game? Is there room in the booth or do I need to sit in the stands? It’s easier at the collegiate level because those SIDs and athletic directors are used to working with media. It’s not the case at a school like Heritage or Cass, and it puts a young writer to the test. You can easily get spoiled with the avenues available at the college level.
Who is your favorite sports journalist and y?
A few stand out to me. Wright Thompson and Tommy Tomlinson can craft stories so well I would probably stay glued to the screen if they talked about a trip to the grocery store. They are excellent writers who could move from sports writing to whatever topic they needed.
On the other side, SB Nation has some of the best personalities around right now. Ryan Nanni, Dan Rubenstein and Spencer Hall are some of the funniest people in the sports world right now. They produce hilarious articles on a regular basis. If you want to laugh a lot, follow all three on Twitter. Not only are they funny, but they also know their stuff so well that it makes it even better.
Who is your least favorite sports journalists and why?
Honestly, I don’t really have one. There are things I don’t like, which mainly boil down to writers being lazy with their work. Check your spelling, know the difference between “then” and “than” and make sure you’re not jumping around all over the place. If you do that, it works for me.
Are you more nervous or excited in anticipation of SEC media day?
Absolutely excited. I’ve gotten past the point of nerves when reporting. When I was younger, I got nervous talking to high school coaches because that’s a big deal as a high school kid in a county where athletics are everything. Now that I’ve been with The Red & Black for a while, I’ve had a chance to interview and be around some pretty interesting people. It just became part of my job. That’s not to say I don’t still enjoy getting to talk to people I grew up watching like D.J. Shockley; it’s just that at this point in my life I expected to be doing one-on-ones like that.
What advice, if any would you give to a young person interested in pursuing journalism?
Work your butt off once you know what you want out of life. That goes for everyone, not just journalists, but I’ll focus on journalism here. If you polled 100 people at UGA and asked where Pickens County is, I’d say you may get five that know. I’m from a little town where it’s not a given that you go to college at all, but I’ve worked hard to write on a near-daily basis and to pursue opportunities when they came my way. I heard about Fetch when I was a junior, so I went and wrote there. I enrolled at UNG and heard about the school newspaper, so I went and wrote there. I transferred to UGA and figured the Athens Banner-Herald needed high school football writers, so I went and wrote there. That’s not to say I didn’t have a whole lot of help from my family and was blessed with being in the right place at the right time a lot. It’s just about putting yourself in a place to try and advance further. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford, who said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t … you’re right.” If you believe it’s impossible, it won’t happen.
That’s not to say I’ve got everything figured out. I’m still not where I want to be; my goals aren’t accomplished but they are within reach. It’s a matter of getting better every day and finding a good position somewhere.
Will you be watching more Minnesota Gophers games than you ever imagined over the next 3-5 years?
I’m going to try. I’m glad that Shannon Brooks made the best out of a bad situation and earned his scholarship with the Golden Gophers. I’m also glad he and Melissa Weeks were open with me and helped me write one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done for a class this past spring. Hopefully, I’ll be covering games at the same time Brooks and Minnesota are playing. I’ll certainly be checking the box scores on Sunday morning to see what the running back from my hometown did this week.