He’s get­ting the pointe: Bal­let lessons help CB Hill’s come­back

In­jured in ’14, a backup in ’15, he has 7 tack­les this year

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Don Markus don.markus@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sport­sprof56

COL­LEGE PARK — Alvin Hill’s mother was not sur­prised when the se­nior cor­ner­back told her over the summer about one of the cour­ses he planned to take this fall at Mary­land.

His 19-year-old dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion.

“I told my mom and she said, ‘That’s my Alvin,’ ” Hill re­called re­cently. “She’s used to me do­ing things out of the or­di­nary. She wasn’t shocked. But my lit­tle sis­ter was like: ‘Bal­let? What are you do­ing?’ ”

For 75 min­utes ev­ery Tues­day and Thurs­day morn­ing, Hill at­tends Col­lette Kro­gol’s Bal­let I class in a dance stu­dio at the Clarice Smith Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter.

One of two males in a class of 15 students, Hill is the first foot­ball player Kro­gol can re­mem­ber tak­ing bal­let in the three years she has taught at Mary­land and her one at Florida.

“Bal­let is an ex­tremely ath­letic sport unto it­self. It’s about know­ing where ev­ery part of the body is at all times,” Kro­gol said in an in­ter­view last week. “This trans­lates well to a foot­ball player like Alvin, giv­ing him more tools and a greater aware­ness of space with his body and where his body is in con­nec­tion to time, grav­ity, ef­fort and move­ment.”

Kro­gol said that in play­ing a po­si­tion such as cor­ner­back, Hill “needs to re­act on the field to the fastest ath­letes. To have that re­ac­tion time and to have that move­ment on that scale, he now has that tool­box where he can move with ef­fi­ciency quicker and jump higher, or he can slow down to meet that ath­lete on the field.”

Hill’s in­ter­est in sign­ing up for Kro­gol’s bal­let course be­gan when he took a yoga course she taught in the spring. Sev­eral friends and team­mates had rec­om­mended he take yoga af­ter he suf­fered a sea­so­nend­ing knee in­jury in 2014.

His come­back had been slow, and Hill had failed to re­gain the start­ing po­si­tion he had be­fore get­ting hurt. Af­ter re­turn­ing last sea­son, Hill played mostly as a backup and on spe­cial teams.

“It was tough, but I just stayed fo­cused,” he said. “I had a goal in mind, and I kept aim­ing for that. I just did some things I haven’t done be­fore to get to this place I haven’t been.” sis­ter, Tif­fany, had a

Af­ter Hill registered for the class, the hard­est part was sum­mon­ing the courage to go to a store and pur­chase bal­let slip­pers.

“I tried to feel a lit­tle like I was mas­cu­line,” Hill said with a laugh. “But the more I walked in, I started to de­flate. I just said, ‘Just give me the shoes, the black [ones].’ ”

Even know­ing the slip­pers were listed as uni­sex didn’t help. “They still look like girls shoes,” he said.

Some of the anx­i­ety was eased when Bryce Bevill, Mary­land’s direc­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, showed Hill a tape of NFL Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and Barry San­ders do­ing bal­let. And less than a month into the class, Hill had seen the ben­e­fits.

“Yes­ter­day, I felt like I was float­ing when I was run­ning,” he said a cou­ple of weeks ago. “I felt fast. I feel like it trans­lates to ex­plo­sive jumps and in­jury pre­ven­tion. Just feel­ing more fluid when I’m mov­ing.”

In a much-im­proved se­condary bol­stered by the re­cent ad­di­tion of sopho­more trans­fer JC Jackson, Hill has played solidly for Mary­land (3-0). He has seven tack­les, in­clud­ing four in a 30-24 dou­ble-over­time win at Cen­tral Florida on Sept 17. Hill’s tipped pass against Florida In­ter­na­tional the week be­fore led to a 14-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn for a touch­down by linebacker Jer­maine Carter Jr.

Kro­gol is hop­ing Hill be­comes a trend­set­ter for other Mary­land ath­letes. When he first walked into the stu­dio where Kro­gol’s class was held, Hill could tell that his class­mates were not ex­pect­ing to see the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Mi­ami na­tive join them.

“I think they were shocked,” he said. “I’m a lot big­ger than … ev­ery­body.”

Hill has re­ceived some good-na­tured rib­bing from his team­mates, but that is noth­ing new.

“They clown me about ev­ery­thing,” Hill said. “Just putting bal­let on the reper­toire, they just clown me about that, too.”

The Terps play Pur­due (2-1) in their Big Ten Con­fer­ence opener Satur­day, a test for their de­fen­sive back­field. Boil­er­mak­ers quar­ter­back David Blough is tied for third na­tion­ally in in­ter­cep­tions (seven) but is sec­ond in the league in pass­ing yards per game (315.3).

An­other kind of test will come at the end of the se­mes­ter, when Hill plans to in­vite his team­mates to a 10-minute bal­let per­for­mance.

“I think they’ll record and post it,” he said, “and have it to say some­thing about.” Satur­day, 3:30 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network Ra­dio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM Line: Mary­land by 101⁄

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