Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill has been honored with two awards after having a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to spark Eastern to a 34-point first-half outburst in a 55-17 Big Sky Conference football victory over North Dakota last Saturday (Oct. 6).
He was honored Monday (Oct. 8) as this week’s Root Sports Special Teams Player of the Week as selected by the Big Sky Conference, and he was also the National Kickoff Returner of the Week in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision by College Football Performance Awards.
Hill, who is from Stockton, Calif., and graduated from Brookside Christian High School in 2011, is now third in FCS with a league-leading average of 37.33 yards per kickoff return. Eastern currently leads FCS with a 31.80 average.
After UND scored on its first possession of the game, Eastern went on a 27-3 scoring run in a span of just over 15 minutes. Hill’s touchdown return – Eastern’s first since 2010 – gave EWU a 20-10 lead.
After a North Dakota TD with 1:29 left in the first half cut the lead to 27-17, Hill struck again with a 41-yard kickoff return to set-up a Vernon Adams-to-Greg Herd TD pass with 13 ticks of the clock left.
It was the second week in a row that Hill was nominated after he recovered an onside kick with 2:19 left to play, which led to the winning score for Eastern in its 32-26 come-from-behind win over Montana on Sept. 29. After that touchdown with 53 seconds to play, Hill had the tackle on the ensuing kickoff return at the Montana 18-yard line. That became a key stop, as the Grizzlies drove 62 yards on five plays, but ran out of time to complete its own rally.
Hill also had the first kickoff returns of his Eastern career versus Montana, returning four for 84 yards and a touchdown. Eastern’s kickoff returner in the first three games was All-America wide receiver Greg Herd. But with a knee injury keeping fellow All-America wide receiver Nicholas Edwards out of action, the Eagles elected to have Hill return kickoffs, instead of risking injury to Herd, who already suffered a concussion Sept. 8 versus Washington State.
Hill has also caught three passes for 20 yards this season. The Eagles are ranked sixth in this week's Sports Network and Coaches polls, and face second-ranked Montana State this Saturday (Oct. 13) in Bozeman, Mont.