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Harlon Hill dead at 80

March 22, 2013 at 3:31 PM

FLORENCE, Ala., March 22 (UPI) -- Harlon Hill, whose name graces the player of the year award for NCAA Division II football, died Thursday, the University of North Alabama said. He was 80.

Jeff Hodges, chairman of the National Harlon Hill Award Committee and assistant athletic director for communications at the University of North Alabama, announced Hill's death in a statement released by the school, The Huntsville (Ala.) Times reported Friday.

Hill played in the NFL from 1954-62, spending time with the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. He was the first recipient of the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 1955, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"We are truly saddened by the news of the passing of Harlon Hill," Hodges said. "He was a legend and an inspiration to so many. In our 27-year relationship with the Hill Trophy, Harlon was always very gracious and humbled that his story and legacy could be used to inspire new generations of student-athletes to excel and dream of what they could accomplish. I think he was as appreciative that he was a part of the creation of an award program that honored Division II athletes as he was that his name was on the trophy."

Hill's name has been on the trophy since 1986.

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