STILLWATER — Tyreek Hill once got flagged because he was too fast.
In one of the first games of his career at Garden City Community College in Kansas, Hill took a screen pass about 90 yards to the house. Coach Matt Miller says it felt like he dashed down the field in about two seconds.
And then he kept running, flying straight through the back of the end zone before gradually coming down from his top speed.
An official penalized Hill for excessive celebration.
“Guys, he's like the third-fastest kid in the world,” Miller told the officials at halftime. “It takes him a while to slow that down so he doesn't pull a muscle.”
Miller wasn't embellishing — Hill took bronze in the 200-meter dash at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona. And that speed helped turn Hill into an electric, all-purpose weapon and one of the most sought-after junior college players in the nation before signing with Oklahoma State last month.
Hill was already expected to make an immediate impact for the Cowboys on offense and special teams in 2014, with receivers Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore and kick returner Justin Gilbert all departing seniors. But with slot receiver/punt returner Josh Stewart declaring for the NFL Draft earlier this week, Hill's in prime shape to get even more involved.
“We've got to find a way to get him the football,” OSU receivers coach Kasey Dunn said, “and get it to him in space and let him do what he does and not over-coach him, because the kid can make a lot of plays on his own.”
At 5-10 and 185 pounds, Hill fits the Stewart mold because of his versatility. And that versatility allows Hill to stretch the field vertically and horizontally.
He played running back, slot receiver and quarterback out of the Wildcat formation for Garden City. At OSU, Dunn expects Hill to get the ball plenty on toss sweep plays and on straight handoffs from the backfield in addition to playing receiver. He'll also be in the mix to return both punts and kicks.
“I like space. I like making people look silly,” Hill told Rivals shortly after committing in September. “I'm all about that. Oklahoma State's offense is good for that.”
Added Miller: “I haven't seen anybody with his burst of acceleration. … Think of the fastest football player you've ever seen. Compare (Tyreek) to him.”
Where did this Olympic-level speed first reveal itself?
Hill was a high school track star in Georgia, but not well-known nationally. That is, until he competed at the 2012 Golden South Classic in Orlando, where he clocked a 10.19 in the 100 and a 20.14 in the 200, the second-fastest time ever for a high school athlete in the U.S.
Soon after was that performance in the World Junior Championships, where he was also a member of the 4x100 relay team that took gold.
But there's more to Hill than his wheels. Miller lauded Hill's ability to make catches in traffic, his toughness in short-yardage situations and awareness to find the crease in the defense.
Those skills made Hill the No. 4 junior college prospect in the country, according to Rivals. Name brand programs like Alabama, Florida State, USC and Oklahoma offered.
But even as Hill's top 4 school choices seemed to constantly change, Miller said OSU was the one school that always stayed in that group. And even after taking a late visit to Texas just before junior college Signing Day, Hill honored his September commitment and signed with the Cowboys.
Hill has enrolled early at OSU, allowing him to participate in winter conditioning and spring football.
Hill was originally projected to play the “Y” receiver, or the inside spot normally opposite Stewart's position. But with Stewart's early departure, now Hill might serve as a direct replacement.
No matter where he plays, though, Hill will immediately bring the speed. Lots of it.
“His value is high for us,” Dunn said. “There's no doubt about it. Either way, he's gonna get the ball at the end of the day — and go fast.”