Darryl Hill reflects on being first Black Maryland, ACC scholarship football player 60 years ago
BALTIMORE -- Darryl Hill didn't want to be a trailblazer.
He just wanted to go to school and play football.
"I told Lee (Corso) I want to have a normal college life," Hill told WJZ. "I want to drink beer, hangout and chase the girls and have fun. I don't want to be under the microscope. I'm really not trying to be Jackie Robinson."
Sixteen years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier, Hill became the first Black football player at the University of Maryland.
He was also the first Black athlete to receive an athletic scholarship from a Division I school below the Mason-Dixon line.
"That was like breaking down a barrier of tradition that was unwritten," Hill said. "You don't give Blacks scholarships if you're in the south."
Times were changing, but not everyone was welcoming the change.
At the time, the University of Maryland competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Black athletes were not allowed to compete in varsity sports.
"First they announced they were just going to play me. That was an uproar in itself," Hill said. "Then they said we're going to give me a scholarship to play. That was a bigger uproar."
Some schools threatened to leave the ACC if Maryland gave Hill a scholarship and allowed him to play.
But, in public and behind closed doors, the university had his back.
"Wilson Elkins, who was president of Maryland University at the time, said 'You gotta do what you gotta do.' The paperwork is on his desk. He signs it, he's on,'" Hill said.
In 1963, Hill took the field for Maryland and made history.
Lee Corso, who at the time was an assistant coach at Maryland, told Hill that he was a test case.
"He said not to put any pressure on you, but if you drop the ball, I don't know how long it will take before we get back to it again," Hill said. "There's a whole lot of people waiting to see and hoping you will fail."
On the field, Hill had no problems.
He was Maryland's leading receiver and led the team in touchdowns in 1963.
Hill said he never experienced any racism or dirty play on the field from opposing players.
"Never once did any of them call me a name, never once did any player late hit, gouging, nothing like that," Hill said.
Opposing fans were a different story.
Hill told WJZ he received death threats, had drinks poured on him and was the target of racist chants.
Sixty years after Hill broke the color barrier at Maryland, in the ACC and the South, he was honored through the naming of the a state-of-the-art facility that is now the home of Maryland football.
"I've never been one to get into personal aggrandizement," Hill said. "But certainly if it points out to students and younger people what happened here and what the history is, and if they look up Darryl Hill and what the whole deal was about, I think it can be a useful beacon and guide for them and even an inspiration to be a Maryland student and be a part of that."
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