Alex Smith knows about courage in overcoming adversity as the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year following a broken leg two years earlier. So it is appropriate that he announced Kosciusko High School graduate Walker Hill as the 2020-21 school year Courage Award winner for Mississippi.
Hill was a key member of the Whippets’ baseball team as a junior before a traffic accent last fall left him paralyzed from the waist down. But he supported the team this year, often attending practices and sometimes encouraging the team from the dugout during games.
Hill was recognized in a virtual ceremony that included a four and a half minute video. The video began with comments by Smith.
“There are a lot of ways to define courage. For me, courage is like beauty. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And the grace exhibited by our Courage Award winner is something to behold.
“(He) found a way to turn courage into something shared. Something inspiring. Something beautiful.”
The video included comments by Hill, his parents, brother Connor, former Kosciusko coach Derrik Boland and teammate Nolen Yuille.
Hill said “It’s a bad thing that happened. But it’s not the end of the world.”
As a junior, he batted .286 and Boland said he was primed for a big senior season.
“He was our leader before the injury. He would have been at the top of our lineup. He was at the point where I had some schools calling me about him. He was probably about to get a scholarship to play at least junior college baseball. He was our vocal leader.”
Hill was notified by Boland that he would receive the award.
“He didn’t tell me that he had entered me in it,” Hill said. “At first I didn’t know exactly what it was. How big it was. It was kind of surreal at first. Now I realize how big it is.”
The video included Hill throwing the traditional first pitch before a home game with Louisville. From his wheelchair, he threw a strike.
Hill also was in the starting lineup for Senior Night.
“It was pretty awesome. Everybody was pretty choked up. It was one of those emotional moments,” Boland said. “His brother and I wheeled him out to centerfield, which is where he probably would have been playing. We lifted him up for the National Anthem.”
Hill said, “It helped me live in the moment again.”
He also played football and basketball in junior high, but concentrated on baseball, his true love, in high school. “I have been watching baseball since I was four and have been played since I was five or six.”
He does not have a favorite major league team, but does have favorite players, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. “They play in the outfield and are so good at what they do.”
Hill will attend Holmes Community College and plans to be a business major. But coaching baseball is also an option for the future. “It has kind of been in my mind because my brother is a coach (at Scott Central). I love baseball and being around sports.”