By: Katherine O'Toole - Maryland Media Relations Assistant
You step onto the field in what would be your first game as a Maryland Terrapin. On top of that, you’re the first African-American to step onto the field as a collegiate player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
A million thoughts could be running through your mind: Will I be booed? How will the other team react? What if I can’t do it?
Maryland football alum Darryl Hill, however, was just hoping he didn’t fumble the ball on the opening kickoff.
“I had the same thoughts as any other first year player, I wasn’t thinking much about the integration part of the deal,” Hill said. “I just had the normal set of first game jitters.”
Not that the nerves never came into play and not that it wasn’t a big deal. The biggest issue wasn’t the discrimination he would have to face, but it was that other kids so similar to him didn’t have the opportunity at all.
“I think the issue was young people in the South not being able to play football at their home University. If an African-American kid in Georgia, or Alabama or North Carolina wanted to play, he had to travel north. And because of the expense and distance, most didn’t.”
The month of September commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hill’s first game against N.C. State, which broke the color barrier in college football. As impressive as a milestone as that is, he does not wish to look back on the brave steps he took onto that field nor the doors he opened for others. Instead, he hopes to shine a light on the discrimination that currently exists.
“Sports used to be free. There’s no more sandlot baseball. No more sandlot football. No more pickup games. Now it’s commercialized and organized leagues and teams that come with a price tag,” Hill said. “There’s no reason a kid from Maryland needs to go to Kentucky to play in tournaments. There’s enough competition here in Maryland.”
Hill stressed his belief that underprivileged kids cannot afford to travel and participate on these teams, regardless of their talent.
“In the last 20 years, for families of an income under $60,000, the number of children who participate in youth sports has fallen by a full 50 percent because they can’t afford it.”
Instead of letting these issues pass him by, Hill created Kids Play USA. He wants to fix this problem and allow sports to be available to all children, regardless of economical stature.
“The biggest thing about this 50-year anniversary to me is that 50 years ago I was fighting so that young people wouldn’t be discriminated against racially in sports. Now, I’m fighting so that young people won’t be discriminated against economically.”
Kids Play USA raises awareness to the public and reaches out to businesses and individuals to encourage them to sponsor teams or individuals who may not otherwise have the resources necessary to compete.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his historic game, Hill will honor ‘Youth Sports Day’ with a fundraiser at the Green Turtle restaurants throughout Maryland, Virginia and Delaware on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The Green Turtle will donate 10% of the day’s proceeds to the Kids Play USA and the public is encouraged to bring used equipment that may be donated to children.
Darryl Hill is a shining example of the proud past Maryland shares as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Stay logged on to umterps.com for future moments in the Proud Past, Fearless Future series.