STILLWATER — Tyreek Hill was 3 years old when his grandmother, Virginia, could no longer catch him.
Hill is now 20, and it’s rare anyone catches him.
Virginia and her husband raised Hill, who in January enrolled at Oklahoma State, leaving Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
Whether it’s as a receiver racing toward the end zone or a sprinter going for a record, Hill’s reputation remains centered on one thing — speed.
“When he started playing flag football, he got on that sideline, and ain’t nobody fixin’ to touch him,” Virginia Hill said. “Tyreek was fast ever since he started walking.”
Hype surrounds Tyreek as Josh Stewart’s heir apparent in the Oklahoma State receiving corps, but football season is six months away.
In the meantime, Hill is setting records for the OSU track and field team.
At the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 14 — Hill’s first meet as a Cowboy — he ran the 60-meter dash in 6.65 seconds.
It was an OSU record.
At the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships, Hill broke that mark with a 6.64, finishing in second place.
He also set a school record with a first-place 20.81 in the 200-meter dash.
At Coffee High School in Douglas, Ga., Hill ran the 200 in 20.14 seconds. That’s the second-best time in the history of high school track. Hill didn’t start running competitively until his junior year.
“He never even put the pedal to the metal, as of right now,” Virginia Hill said. “Tyreek still don’t know how fast he is. He’s still got some speed back there he’s hiding.”
Coach Mike Gundy and the OSU football staff battled powerhouse football programs such as Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas to sign Hill.
It might not have happened without first-year OSU sprints coach Diego Flaquer.
Thanks to a new $10 million facility, track and field coach Dave Smith said he felt as if the school could begin attracting sprinters.
Flaquer took over in late July and began building a sprint team from the ground up. One of his first moves was getting involved with Hill.
“(Strength coach Rob) Glass took me upstairs to meet with the football staff, and they mentioned, ‘Hey, do you think you could try to help us recruit Tyreek?’ ” Flaquer said. “I said, ‘Hey, I’ll do what I can.’ ”
Flaquer said Hill made his interest in track clear from the start. In the past, that would have been a problem for OSU.
“Over the years, we’ve had a number of young men, skill players, who made a decision on where they were going to school,” Gundy said. “I think we lost out because we didn’t really have a track program for them.”
With Flaquer’s addition, the Cowboys finally offer a legitimate sprint team to go along with a new track complex.
OSU football got Hill to take the bait, but the Cowboys likely wouldn’t have reeled him in without a viable track program.
Don’t believe it?
Garden City football coach Matt Miller said early in the recruiting process, Hill was leaning toward a Pac-12 school.
Two weeks later, Tyreek switched his favorite to another Pac-12 program.
Miller would not say which two Pac-12 schools topped Hill’s list.
“I asked him why and he said, ‘Because the first school wasn’t having the track coach call me,’” Miller said. “So that’s how important it was to him.”
With Hill as the poster child, OSU football and track are working together for the first time.
And thanks in part to Hill’s 18 points, OSU won its first Big 12 indoor championship a week ago. The Cowboys compete in NCAAs starting Friday.
“It legitimizes the track and field team as a track and field team, instead of a collection of great distance runners,” Smith said.
OSU track gains from the symbiotic relationship with football by getting athletes it normally couldn’t. For OSU football, the relationship provides a recruiting edge.
Flaquer also helped with recent dual-sport signees James Washington and Chris Hardeman.
“We obviously have a great football team, and now we have a great sprint coach,” two-sport athlete Blake Webb said. “When you put two and two together, it’s like, ‘Why would you not want to come?’ ”
The convergence between sports already helped get Hill, a truly rare talent.
“I’ve been around a lot of great athletes, a lot of great sprinters,” Flaquer said.
“Tyreek is right up there with them, if not a step above.”
And with the programs working together, the future for both looks even brighter.
“Tyreek is the beginning,” Flaquer said. “Then you pick up the next guy, and the next guy. Then now we start building something.”