By Scott Wright
With just over 11 minutes left in the second quarter of what became an epic Bedlam game, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill took a delayed handoff from quarterback Taylor Cornelius.
Hill juked an Oklahoma defender in the backfield, split two more just past the line of scrimmage and ran through the attempted arm tackle of another before being tackled for a 28-yard gain.
The junior running back got up slowly, having aggravated a rib injury from a week earlier, and jogged to the sideline.
As it turns out, that was his last play living his dream in an Oklahoma State football jersey.
“Always a Cowboy,” Hill wrote on Twitter Monday morning, topping off a letter to OSU teammates, coaches and fans announcing his plan to pass up his remaining eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
“I thank God every day for making me a Cowboy, and I will keep you all in my heart forever.”
The news initially broke when OSU coach Mike Gundy, through his Twitter account, said that Hill, the Cowboys’ All-Big 12 running back, and sixth-year senior offensive lineman Larry Williams will not participate in the Cowboys’ Liberty Bowl game against Missouri on Dec. 31.
Williams, who played in eight total games during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA last spring.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pound North Carolina native was a regular starter at right guard, despite playing through personal tragedy with the death of his mother, who had been battling multiple illnesses, in the middle of the season.
Hill followed up Gundy’s announcement with his Twitter post, officially signaling the end to a career that stacks up with some of the best in OSU history.
For his career, he had 3,539 yards on 632 attempts, each ranking seventh in the OSU history books, with 30 touchdowns, ranking eighth. His 98.3 yards per game ranks fourth and 5.6 per carry is eighth.
Hill had more rushing yards than Joseph Randle and Tatum Bell, more touchdowns than David Thompson and Bob Fenimore, more 100-yard games than Barry Sanders, more yards per game than Kendall Hunter, and a better yards-per-carry average than Terry Miller.
Thurman Thomas, Miller, Thompson, Hunter, Sanders and Ernest Anderson had more career yards, but only Sanders had fewer carries than Hill.
It had long been anticipated that Hill would consider leaving early for the NFL. Gundy alluded to the idea in August, pointing out that Hill is on track to earn his degree in the spring.
He battled injuries late this season and did not play in OSU’s final two regular season games, but rushed for 930 yards on 158 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per carry with nine touchdowns.
With recent news that backup running back J.D. King would transfer to Georgia Southern, the Cowboys are left with three scholarship running backs — Chuba Hubbard, LD Brown and Jahmyl Jeter — and none in the current recruiting class.