American Football Database
Calvin Hill
With Cleveland in 1979
No. 35     
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1947-01-02) January 2, 1947 (age 75)
Place of birth: Baltimore, Maryland
Career information
College: Yale
NFL Draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
* Dallas Cowboys ( 1969 1974)
Career highlights and awards
* 2× All-Ivy League (1967, 1968)
Games played     156
Rushing yards     6,083
Average     4.2
Touchdowns     42
Stats at
Stats at

Calvin G. Hill (born January 2, 1947) is a retired American football player. He played running back in the National Football League for twelve seasons. Hill played for the NFL Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Cleveland Browns. He also played a season with The Hawaiians of the World Football League in 1975.

Hill was named to the Pro Bowl team four times (1969, 1972, 1973, and 1974). In 1972, he became the first Cowboy running back to have a 1,000-yard rushing season (with 1,036 yards rushing); he repeated the feat in the following season with 1,142 yards rushing.

Yale University conferred Hill with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at its 2016 commencement. "You are a Yale legend" is the opening sentence of the citation honoring Hill.[1]

Early years

Hill was awarded a scholarship to attend the Riverdale Country School in The Bronx, New York prior to attending ninth grade. At Riverdale, he was an accomplished athlete in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field, often leading teams that defeated athletic arch-rival Horace Mann School and other Ivy Preparatory School League opponents in the metropolitan New York City-area.

He was introduced to organized football at Riverdale, where he was named the starting quarterback as a sophomore, running the T formation in a program that was undefeated for eight seasons, 1958 through 1965, and was led by head coach Frank Bertino.[2] He quarterbacked the team during the 1963, 1964 and 1965 seasons.

Hill was a highly touted high school football talent and an honors student at the secondary school.[3]

College career

Hill acknowledged a desire to play in a stadium with a large seating capacity, and was impressed by the large crowd, more than 70,000, watching Yale defeat Dartmouth 24-15 at the Yale Bowl during a visit, October 31, 1964.

The second day of practices at Yale, the coaching staff shifted Hill to linebacker on the freshman team and gave the quarterback job to Brian Dowling. After four days at linebacker he was moved to halfback, where he remained for the rest of his football career.

Hill and Dowling had incomparable on-field chemistry. Dowling could pass, and Hill could run, and both could catch passes.[4] Hill, who threw six halfback option passes for touchdowns at Yale, likened Dowling's athletic virtuosity to John Coltrane's musicality.[5]

Hill and Dowling led the 1968 Yale team to an undefeated season, although the last game of the season at Harvard Stadium ended in a 29-29 tie. During his three years as a starter, the Bulldogs posted records respectively of 4-5, 8-1 and 8-0-1. Hill also played tight end or linebacker in some games.

He was a subject, along with Dowling, of Garry Trudeau's "Bull Tales" cartoons in the Yale Daily News. "Bull Tales" was the forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize winning Doonesbury.[6]

Hill was a sprinter and jumper for the Yale track team. He holds the school record for the outdoor triple jump. He was the 1967 and 1968 long jump and triple jump Ivy League Heptagonal Outdoor Track & Field Champion.[7] Hill completed his three-year collegiate athletic career with 2527 all-purpose rushing yards, 1,512 rushing yards from the line of scrimmage, 858 receiving yards, and 298 passing yards, during a three-year varsity career.[8] Hill graduated with the Yale College Class of 1969.

Professional career

Dallas Cowboys

Hill was selected by the Dallas Cowboys]] in the first round (24th overall) of the 1969 NFL draft, becoming the first player from an Ivy League school drafted in the first round. At the time this selection was widely questioned, because teams did not think they could find professional players at elite colleges.[9]

The Cowboys drafted him as an athlete, so he spent his first few days in training camp as a linebacker and tight end.[10] He got his chance at playing halfback in the second exhibition game, because the team was experiencing problems at running back during that training camp. Don Perkins, the fourth leading rusher in NFL history had just formally announced his retirement, Dan Reeves the starter at halfback was struggling after having off-season knee surgery and his backup Craig Baynham had bruised ribs. Hill never relinquished the starting job and when the regular season started, even though he was a rookie, he became a dominant player in the league. Through the first nine games of the season, he was the best running back in the NFL with 807 rushing yards. However, he hurt his toe while rushing for a team record 150 yards in a 41-28 victory over the Washington Redskins in the ninth game of the season. The team didn't know the extent of the injury, so he missed the next 2 games. When it was later revealed that it was broken, Hill played the last 2 games with a broken toe that required an injection before every practice and game.

Hill finished his rookie season with 942 rushing yards (4.6 yard average) and 8 touchdowns. He was also received NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.[11]

The Cowboys selected Duane Thomas in the first round of the 1970 NFL draft, because the team was not confident that Hill had recovered during the off season. He also had complications from an infected blister in the same foot that kept him in the hospital for more than a month. Nine games into the 1970 season, he suffered a back injury and didn't play much the rest of the year, finishing with 577 rushing yards while averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

In 1971, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament against the New York Giants, that was initially diagnosed as a sprained knee. He missed six games and tried to play again in the NFC Championship, but hurt his knee again scoring a touchdown.[12]

In 1972, after the Cowboys traded Thomas to the San Diego Chargers, Hill became the first running back in franchise history to surpass the 1,000 yard mark and proved he could still run the football. He finished with 1,045 yards and a 4.2 yard average and six touchdowns. He also set a club record for receptions by a running back with 43. In 1973, he broke his own team record with 1,142 yards and six touchdowns.

Hill played in Dallas for six seasons, helping the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI and 2 NFC titles. He had some superb years with the team, making four Pro Bowls (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974) and two All-Pro teams (1969, 1973).

The Hawaiians (WFL)

On April 9, 1974, Hill signed a contract with The Hawaiians of the World Football League,[13] but played in Dallas in 1974. He played in three WFL games in 1975, carrying the ball 49 times for 218 yards and no touchdowns, before suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.[14] When the league folded, he returned to the NFL.

Washington Redskins

On April 3, 1976, Hill signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins,[15][16] but he could not recapture his previous playing level. In two seasons as a backup running back, he rushed for 558 yards and caught 25 passes, before announcing his retirement on August 7, 1978.[17]

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns convinced him to unretire and signed him to a contract on September 25, 1978.[18] He played four seasons mostly as a third-down running back, before retiring at the end of the 1981 season.[19]

Hill played in the NFL for 12 seasons, recording 6,083 rushing yards, 42 rushing touchdowns, 2,861 receiving yards and 23 receiving touchdowns.

Personal life

File:Calvin Hill.jpg

Hill in 2014, speaking to students at the Riverdale Country School

His wife, Janet Hill, is a graduate of Wellesley College, where she shared a suite with Hillary Rodham Clinton. They are the parents of retired NBA player Grant Hill. Hill was the 1969 NFL Rookie of the Year. Twenty six years later, his son Grant would share the 1995 NBA Rookie of the Year award with Jason Kidd.

In 1987, Baltimore Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams appointed Hill to the team's board of directors.[20] The following year, he was named vice president for personnel and served in that capacity until 1994.[21]

Hill currently sits on the boards of several organizations, works as a corporate motivational speaker, and works for the Dallas Cowboys organization as a consultant who specializes in working with troubled players. Additionally, Hill is a consultant to the Cleveland Browns Football Club and Alexander & Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C. corporate consulting firm. As a consultant with the Cleveland Browns, he helped form a group of Cleveland Browns' players to control and eliminate drug and alcohol-related problems. Hill has written several articles on sports and academia for national publications, makes appearances at university campuses and business firms, throughout the United States. He addresses several topics including the problem of drugs and alcohol and the work needed in this area, and the important relationship of sports and academia. [22]

The Calvin Hill Day Care Center in New Haven was founded by fellow Baltimore, Maryland-native Kurt Schmoke among other undergraduates in 1970 and is named in his honor. It is available to Yale University families from all economic levels.[23]

On May 23, 2016, Hill received an honorary doctorate from Yale University.[24]


  1. "Honorary degrees awarded to nine outstanding individuals".
  2. Frank Bertino, 77, Prep Coach
  3. "Calvin Hil profile".
  4. Yale University Official Football Program, October 27, 1979, Pennsylvania Vs. Yale, "Calvin Hill: An Extraordinary Talent", pg. 11, by line, Jon Stein, The New Haven Register
  5. "Yale's Calvin Hill becomes first Ivy League player selected in first round of NFL Draft".
  6. Yale University Official Football Program, October 27, 1979, pg. 13
  7. "Men’s Recordbook". Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  8. 2003 Yale Football Media Guide
  9. Yale's Calvin Hill becomes first Ivy League player selected in first round of NFL Draft
  10. Hooks, Jerry (August 24, 1973). "Tight end Hill's favorite". Wilmington Morning Star (North Carolina): p. 1C.,5924781.
  11. Calvin Hill Selected as Top Rookie
  12. "Injured knee won't stop hill". Nevada Daily Mail. Associated Press (Missouri): p. 4. January 13, 1972.,634880.
  13. "Calvin Hill jumps Dallas for Hawaii". Observer-Reporter. Associated Press (Washington, Pennsylvania): p. D2. April 10, 1974.,2080894.
  14. "Hawaiians' Calvin Hill out for the year". Nevada Daily Mail (Missouri): p. 8. August 18, 1975.,2392961.
  15. "Redskins sign Calvin Hill to multi-year pact". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press (Florida): p. 1D. April 4, 1976.
  16. "Running star Calvin Hill signs pact with Redskins". Florence Times. UPI (Alabama): p. 26. April 4, 1976.,427484.
  17. "Redskins' Calvin Hill announces retirement". St. Petersburg Times. AP, UPI (Florida): p. 7C. August 8, 1978.,5691782.
  18. Changes mind Hill joins Browns
  19. "Calvin Hill plays his final game". The Day. Associated Press (New London, Connecticut): p. 35. December 21, 1981.,4801604.
  20. "SPORTS PEOPLE; Hill Gets Oriole Post" (in en-US). The New York Times. July 23, 1987. ISSN 0362-4331.
  21. Sun, Baltimore. "Calvin Hill" (in en-US).
  22. ESPN - Dallas gives Johnson opportunity to resume career - NFL
  23. Calvin Hill Day Care Center & Kitty Lustman-Findling Kindergarten
  24. Stannard, Ed (May 23, 2016). "Yale commencement notables include Calvin Hill, Audra McDonald, 3,628 graduates". New Haven Register. Retrieved May 24, 2016.

External links