If you were ever on State College’s Atherton St. in the quiet green of a summer morning in 2012, you might have seen Penn State defensive lineman Jordan Hill trekking across the golf course alongside the road.
Hill, then entering his senior season at Penn State, had likely just finished his 5 a.m. morning workouts with the rest of his team.
Then, it was time to get to work.
Hill interned at Penn State’s Blue Course golf facilities under pro instructor Joe Hughes — a job with all of the labor, but much less of the glamor than what comes with football.
“He did a phenomenal job working for us that last summer right before he graduated,” said Hughes. “He did anything from cleaning golf carts to picking up balls off the driving range, to setting up golf carts for tournaments. We even had him in the shop a couple times answering phones. He pretty much did anything a golf course would need, and was actually very dependable. Sometimes students, they’re not always good at coming in on time. But he was always on point and ready to work.”
Hill’s days ran from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Hughes laughed a bit when he recounted all of the things the big D-lineman had to do to get the course ready for play — all without picking up the game himself, Hill admitted.
“I’m terrible,” he laughed. “I did set up a miniature golf tournament once.”
But one part of it all stayed a special moment in Hill’s mind, said Hughes.
“The coolest thing, I think, was hanging up all the Big Ten flags (on the course),” he said. “Because here were all these different teams he was competing against, and here (Jordan) was hanging up all the team flags on the 18th green. That was his job, right before he set up all of the water coolers … I’m sure he had different thoughts of all the teams and all the plays he’s made against them, all the memories that came back for him.”
Hill wrapped up his summer and posted a solid enough senior season to be picked up in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, helped the team win a Super Bowl during his rookie season and will enter the last year of his initial contract this fall.
Learn more about the Jordan Hill Foundation and Charity Golf Tournament here.
But he hasn’t forgotten that summer, and the connections he made while interning for the course. One of Hill’s former coworkers was in his wedding, and Hughes said he checks in every time he’s back in town. Hill also gave Hughes a call when a special idea formed in his mind regarding his new charity, the Jordan Hill Foundation.
This week, Hill will be back in town to host a golf tournament at Blue Course, the proceeds of which will benefit the Jordan Hill Foundation for diabetes awareness and prevention, and the further advancement of kidney disease research.
The event, which will take place on Saturday costs $125 per participant, and will include a golf cart, breakfast and prizes as well as the opportunity to play the course with Donovan Smith (a former Penn State lineman who now plays for Tampa Bay), Derek Moye, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end David King and former All-American Purdue punter Cody Webster.
Hill started the foundation after watching his father, Larry, struggle with diabetes and kidney disease for over 10 years.
“I’ve been thinking about this since I was 18, 19 years old,” he said. “He was always that guy that I looked up to, that guy who nothing could bother him, he seemed kind of indestructible. And just seeing how his illnesses affect him, make him weaker … What it does to his body … When I was younger I just knew that someday I was going to do something to try to make a difference.”
Hill remembers Larry waking up at 2 or 3 a.m. every morning in their blue-collar town of Steelton, to go to work, but he never missed any of his son’s games or events. That translated over into his own son’s work ethic, and helped inspire him to launch the foundation after getting settled in to his NFL career.
“It’s been a lot more work than I thought it would be, because I want to make sure that everything is right,” said Hill. “I don’t want to cut any edges, cut any corners.”
That sentiment is familiar to Hughes, who watched Hill work diligently all throughout that summer at the golf course.
This weekend, however, is all fun for a good cause — and a homecoming of sorts for the former intern.
“I don’t think I’m going to have him chase down golf balls this time,” laughed Hughes. “Maybe he’ll want to hang up those flags again, though. That might be kind of cool.”