The senior was a member of the Saks marching Wildcats from his sixth- through eighth-grade years. Hilliard started playing football as a freshman, but felt the need to rejoin the band. He made it halfway through the season his 10th grade year before realizing it was too much.
“I thought I could do both,” he said. “But I didn’t want to.”
Hilliard can play multiple instruments, including guitar, drums, trumpet and bass, as well as playing a physical game within the trenches on the football field.
Hilliard and the Wildcats will need to play physical Friday night when Saks takes its perfect 13-0 record to the Class 3A state semifinals against top-ranked Madison Academy.
After the season ends, Hilliard will finish out his high school career by competing for the Saks track and field team, throwing discus, shot put and javelin.
Hilliard graduates in May. He plans to attend college and study to become a dental hygienist, a decision he solidified after being an apprentice to Dr. Beverly Rogers last summer.
Recently, Hilliard took a few minutes from packing on layers for a cold practice to sit down with Anniston Star sports writer Brandon Miller and tackle 10 questions:
Question: How’s it feel to be 13-0?
Answer: Amazing. That’s it. It’s just amazing.
Q: Which game was the best Saks has played this year?
A: Piedmont. (A 40-15 win for Saks.) I think they were one of the best teams we’ve played, and we showed up. Everybody was clicking and everything went well.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
A: Food and family. I love turkey, and it’s good to see people you don’t get to see all the time. It’s get when people come in from out of town and everybody gets to talk and catch up.
Q: Who do you think will win the Iron Bowl?
A: Auburn. I’m not just saying that because they’re my favorite team, but I think Alabama is going to get too relaxed. If Auburn plays the way it can then I think Auburn will win.
Q: What’s the best thing about coach Jonathan Miller, other than his last name?
A: I would say his work ethic. I like the way he pushes us to work hard and get better. No matter where you are you can’t settle because you could always get better.
Q: Do you have any pregame traditions?
A: I pray before every game. I do that. I pray on the sideline after we run out of the banner. It’s different every game.
Q: Who are your best friends and how did you meet?
A: Montez Boyd and Lyndsey Turner — that’s my girlfriend, too. Montez and I stay close together, but I think we met in band. He’s the captain of the band now. I met Lyndsey because she’s a cheerleader. She’s a cheerleader; I’m a football player. That’s how it works out.
Q: Who’s your biggest inspiration?
A: My dad, Vincent Hilliard. He was a football player, was good, went to college and did all that. He’s my motivation because of all the stuff he goes through. He’s just the person I look up to the most.
Q: If you could give your freshman-self advice, what would it be?
A: Never stop working. Once you think you’re at a certain level you kind of slack off a bit, but when you look back you realized you should have been working or doing this or that. You should always have a mindset that you can get better.
Q: What’s your favorite subject in school?
A: Forensic science. You learn about murder cases, how to solve crimes, what different tools are, finger prints and different stuff like that. I like it because it’s different. It’s not math or science — you get to learn about stuff you don’t get to learn every other day.