- STU-Ivan Leonard
Brandyn Hillman: Star of Tomorrow
Brandyn Hillman posing for pre-season picture
On a cool, brisk evening under the Friday night lights, #3 steps onto the field, the Trucker crowd is on their feet waiting eagerly to see what spectacular trick he has up his sleeve this time. Yet under all of this pressure, #3's mind is crystal clear. That player wearing #3 is Brandyn Hillman.
Brandyn Hillman is Churchland High School's football standout. A four star Michigan University commit expected to play safety.
Hillman didn’t always start off as the exciting, dynamic player we know today. He was once a seven year old offensive lineman for the Churchland Tigers.
“I would probably say around seven I started playing for the Churchland Tigers in Portsmouth… I actually played center because I was skinny but I was stronger than everybody, so I had number 44 playing center my first year.”
Hillman eventually blossomed into a quarterback, aspiring to be like his favorite player growing up, Russell Wilson.
“Just being the fact that he wore number three and he played for my favorite NFL team made it better.”
But Hillman realized that he was truly destined for greatness his freshman year of high school, when people were telling him that he’s ready for the next level.
“It was our first game of the season. We put up 56 points on Smithfield, and I heard it from somebody, so that’s when I felt like I could play at the next level.”
Freshmen don’t just lead their team to dominant victories like Hillman was doing. The new quarterback at Churchland High School was the real deal.
During the football season Hillman’s daily routine is all business and no distractions.
“Alright so from waking up I’d probably say I normally don’t eat breakfast, so I go like straight to the gym before I come to school, and I get through my school day pretty easy and then after school of course kinda get locked in for the game. I always have a pre-game, where I walk the field before we play, so that’s pretty much what I do.”
Even on a day off Hillman is in the gym working out, or on the field perfecting his craft.
“He put the time in, he worked extremely hard during the off-season. During the season after practice, he was still training. He just has that mamba mindset.” said Churchland football head coach Dontrell Leonard.
Also, Hillman has a unique pregame superstition that he takes part in for good luck. Obviously it’s working wonders for him.
“I don’t get dressed before I eat… they’ll have their game pants on and everything while eating, I’ll still have on sweatpants, headphones, walking around, and everything,”
Unfortunately for the Churchland Truckers, Hillman’s final season as a Trucker was finished November 11, 2022. Churchland was defeated by Warwick 21-7 in the second round of the VHSL Class 4 playoffs, which left him with mixed feelings about his high school level accomplishments and sentimental about his time as a Trucker.
“I feel like I left this place better than I found it, being that a couple of years ago we didn’t have the record that we have, but now Churchland is kind of now known for its football… But, I didn’t feel like I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in the playoffs or states.”
“I'm gonna miss it a lot, being that this really developed me into the person that I’m going to be and who I am. I’m gonna miss it a lot, Coach Leonard, Coach Ferg, all of the coaches. They've been with me since freshman year, never had no other coach in high school, so it's gonna hit different when I leave," expressed Hillman.
Coach Leonard will miss Hillman just as much. “In my first six years of being here, he was my first quarterback that I had for more than one year… Just watching him grow throughout the years was a stellar process for the both of us.”
"Brandyn was always the electric player on the field. He was always a motivational speaker, and teammate for us all. When it came down to learning our place and assignment, getting it done, and just overall being one of the best members on the field when it comes down to being a team player," stated Jayshaun Campbell, junior offensive lineman for Churchland.
Hillman’s senior season stats were astonishing. On offense he eclipsed 1,312 passing yards, 1,236 rushing yards, and 33 total touchdowns. On defense he racked up 41 tackles, four of them for loss, three sacks, and four pass breakups. He was awarded the Virginia Class 4 Region A Offensive Player of the Year honors his junior and senior season, and named all region 2nd team as a defensive back and punter this year. This earned him offers from Ohio State, Louisiana State University, and Virginia Tech, just to name a few. Compared to the beginning of his senior season, when he just had a single Division 1 offer from Norfolk State University.
On December 7, 2022, Hillman originally committed to Notre Dame University, but for personal reasons took back his National Letter of Intent. Now, he will become a Michigan Wolverine in the fall next season, after announcing his commitment on March 19, 2023.
Hillman announcing his commitment to Michigan on Instagram.
After all of these awards and buzz around Hillman's name, he gives credit to his family for helping him stay motivated and focused on getting better.
“They always let me know like I haven't made it yet, so just stay humble and everything. They push me to be great everyday.”
Hillman is the definition of “A Jack of all Trades,” he is one of the most versatile players in this year's class. He can lace up at any position his team needs him to play, which is why there are such high hopes for him at the collegiate level.
Hillman wants people to remember him as "a hard nosed football player, a player that wants to go get it, nothing giving to them, and a leader. That's what I want to leave as a leader."
Hillman described his football journey as "Marvelous," and marvelous it has been.
Top photo: Churchland High School. Middle photo: Michigan University football program