Chicago Bears Top 100: #66 - Harlon Hill

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We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears.  It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.

Number 66 in our countdown of the Top 100 Chicago Bears is probably the Bears’ first stud wide receiver, Harlon Hill.  The Bears drafted Hill out of the University of North Alabama in the 15th round (yes, 15th round!) of the 1954 NFL Draft.  Hill didn’t even realize that he had been drafted by the Bears until he was approached and asked about it on campus.  At that time, he knew very little of the National Football League.

Hill took the NFL by storm as a rookie, leading the Bears to the top passing attack in the league.  He had 1124 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in just 12 games, leading the league in both categories.  That was good enough to earn Rookie of the Year honors, along with a Pro Bowl and All Pro selections.

Hill’s second season wasn’t quite as productive as his first, but his 9 TD’s still led the league.  The best was yet to come for Hill in 1956, when he had his statistically best season, catching 47 balls for 1147 yards and 11 touchdowns.  The Bears advanced to the NFL title game against the New York Giants, but lost as their passing attack was slowed on a very icy Yankee Stadium field.

Things went downhill for Harlon in the late 50’s, as he suffered through injuries, the worst of which was a severed Achilles tendon in the 1958 season.  Hill was believed to be the first athlete to recover from a surgically repaired Achilles and resume his career, but he lost a lot of his speed and agility after returning.  He gutted it out of few more seasons, but they weren’t very productive.  He finished his career in 1962 bouncing between the Steelers and Lions, but managed only 7 catches total.

Hill finished his Chicago Bears career with 226 catches for 4616 yards and 40 TD’s over 89 games.  That’s good for second in the Chicago Bears history in yardage and receiving touchdowns.

In 1986, NCAA Division II created a new award named after Harlon Hill for it’s best players, sort of like the Heisman Trophy for Division II.  Hill passed away in March of 2013 after a prolonged illness.

What do you think of the ranking?  Too high?  Too low?  I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself.  We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.

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