Combining high performance in the classroom and on the playing field is a tricky balance, but it’s one that Senior Brandon Hill has pulled off with aplomb. Brandon’s academic record alone would qualify him for admission to any one of a number of elite colleges. But thanks to his elite-level talent in football, he’s one of the lucky few who won’t have to sweat the college admission process—he’s already committed to Duke.
Heathwood fans know Brandon is a special player. And they’re not the only ones who have noticed. 247Sports’ JC Shurburtt calls him “a huge commit for Duke,” noting that “when you watch the talented athlete on film, you can see why he had the scholarship opportunities that he did” and adding that “Off the field, he’s an excellent student and leader in the community” who “should be able to handle the academics at Duke with no problem.”
Brandon already knows he can handle Duke’s academics, because he’s heard all about them from Heathwood alum Gabe Brandner (’13), who’s a starter on Duke’s football team this year. “Gabe’s pre-med and has been doing well,” Brandon says, “and he’s told me that Senior Exhibition prepared him very thoroughly for college-level academic work.”
Brandon himself is planning to be pre-med or to major in engineering at Duke, despite the fact that his favorite subject at Heathwood has been English. He knows pursuing a demanding major while playing a major role on a Division I football team that has been nationally ranked in recent years will be a challenge. But, he says, “it’s a process. My parents have always had high standards for my academic performance, and I’ve been balancing sports and school work since 6th grade.”
With scholarship offers on the table from Clemson, Tennessee, Notre Dame and more, Brandon had a lot of options for life after Heathwood. He chose Duke partly because of head coach David Cutcliffe, who he calls “a great guy, a great mentor, and a great teacher,” and partly because of what Duke has in common with Heathwood: a strong sense of community and the opportunity to excel both athletically and academically.
Although the broken leg he suffered last spring kept him sidelined for Heathwood’s first two games this season, Brandon’s also looking forward to what remains of his last year of high school football. After being cleared to play last week, he quickly returned to standard form with nine tackles, a forced fumble and an average of 28 yards per kickoff return against Laurence Manning. Like Duke, a team that languished at the bottom of the ACC for years but has leapfrogged to the top of the league under Coach Cutcliffe, Brandon thinks Heathwood may be poised for a football resurgence. “I’ve heard great things about how Coach Victory has turned other programs around,” he says. “We have lots of room to improve, and I’m excited to see where we go this year.”
Having been at Heathwood since first grade, Brandon feels like the time he has left on campus is precious. “I’ll really miss seeing all the people I’ve seen almost every day for most of my life,” he says. “And my coaches and teammates here have been life family to me. Our coaches really care about their players.”