Give this to Joe Hills, he is not afraid to follow his dream regardless of the obstacles.
That courage and his performance on the football field are reason enough for some NFL teams to give the Palmetto native a serious look.
Hills just finished another season in which he was one of the most decorated players in the Arena Football League.
The 28-year-old was voted the AFL Offensive Player of The Year, named the Cutters Receiver of the Year and selected to the All-Arena first team after putting together one of the best seasons in league history.
The Jacksonville Sharks receiver led the league in all three receiving categories by a wide margin, finishing with 16 more receptions, 353 more receiving yards and 10 more receiving touchdowns than any other player in the AFL this past season.
Still, he wonders.
The call has never come.
It’s been almost three years since an NFL team dialed his number; that was in 2013 when he worked out for the Carolina Panthers in minicamp.
“That’s the hardest thing. I haven’t received one single call,” Hills says. “I don’t get any feedback, so I don’t know if I am doing anything wrong or what I am doing right. All the calls I have received are from the Canadian Football League. I have about three offers on the table. But if I went to Canada I would want to go at the beginning of the season. If you are an add-on in midseason, everybody is ahead of you.”
Hills certainly has the measurables. He is 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, a former athletic basketball player who is among the career scoring leaders at Palmetto High.
At the very least you would think one NFL team would be impressed with Hills, particularly with his resilience.
To keep his dream alive, Hills recently signed a contract to play in China’s new indoor football league. He is scheduled to report to Beijing in two weeks, but says he is not 100 percent sure he is going through with it. He is leaning that way.
Hills was the first American picked in the China league’s draft and second overall. It will earn him around $3,000-plus per game, which is more than he makes in the AFL even though he is one of its premier players. He is slated to play for the Dalian Dragon Kings
“I am not sure I am going. I just got home (Palmetto), and I don’t want to leave my family again,” Hills said. “If anything I was hoping someone would give me a call so I can stay in the states. I don’t want to be in China and the NFL calls and I can’t get home. But right now I am set to go.”
The season in China is about two months and involves six games. There is two weeks of camp where Hills and other American players will teach the Chinese players the American style of football.
The games will be played on the smaller Arena League field with CFL and Indoor Football League rules.
For now, Hills takes the attitude he can only do what he can do.
“I don’t know why the NFL has not called. I give my agent my game film, and what he does with the film I have no clue,” Hills says. “I have no way to check if he is sending it. All I can do is stay in shape and be ready to do whatever they want. Right now I feel I could definitely make a team, even as a scout team player I would give a defense a lot to work on.”
One thing NFL teams look at is consistency and Hills has definitely been that, catching at least one touchdown pass in 72 straight games, which is six short of the AFL record.
He excelled in the Sharks’ two postseason games, leading Jacksonville with 24 receptions for 269 yards and seven touchdowns, and Hills is only the second player in the franchise’s seven-year history to earn the AFL’s Player of The Year Award.
It makes you wonder why the call has never come.