Harlon Hill, a legendary wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, has died in Alabama at age 80.
Hill attended the University of North Alabama and was drafted in 1954 by the Chicago Bears. He would go on to catch 45 passes for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns that year, earning Rookie of the Year honors.
During his nine-year career, Harlon Hill also played for the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers, but he is remembered most for his time on the Bears. Hill’s 4,616 career receiving yards still stand as the second most in franchise history.
He also earned accolades for his NFL tenure. Hill was named the No. 43 greatest Chicago Bear of all time by ESPN in a list of the 50 best players in franchise history.
For his career, Hill had 233 receptions for 4,717 yards and 40 touchdowns, averaging 20.2 yards per catch.
As Harlon Hill dies, his name will live on in other ways. In 1986, he became the namesake for the Division II player of the year trophy, which is awarded each year before the Division II Championship Game.
“We are truly saddened by the news of the passing of Harlon Hill,” said Jeff Hodges, Chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee and Assistant Athletic Director for Communications at the University of North Alabama. “He was a legend and an inspiration to so many.”
Hodges added that, in Division II’s 27-year relationship with the Hill Trophy, Harlon was “always very gracious and humbled that his story and legacy could be used to inspire new generations of student-athletes to excel and dream of what they could accomplish.”
“I think he was as appreciative that he was a part of the creation of an award program that honored Division II athletes as he was that his name was on the trophy,” Hodges added.
Harlon Hill died at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence after a lengthy illness, Hodges said.