By David Troppens
Dylan Hillger has played soccer all of his life.
However, when he entered Lake Fenton High School, he learned a new passion of his — kicking.
He joined the Lake Fenton varsity football team and quickly became one of the Flint area’s top punters and placekickers. Eventually, his primary passion changed from soccer to kicking, to the point that he wanted to give it a shot at the collegiate level. Hillger, a 2019 Lake Fenton graduate, earned his shot. He’ll be competing for a kicker position on Hope College’s football squad this fall.
“I played soccer all my life and I didn’t play football until my freshman year, but toward my sophomore and junior year I stared enjoying football more than soccer. That’s when I started realizing I may want to keep doing this. … I wanted to play football.”
Hillger was looking at many other Division 3 schools to continue his career. The list included Mt. Union, Trine, Adrian College and Ohio Northern University. Hillger plans to go into engineering.
“My decision was mostly academically focused,” Hillger said. “I wanted to do football as well. ... I liked the feel and I liked the programs available like engineering. It helped me pick the school.”
Hillger didn’t get a lot of field goal attempts his senior season. He converted 5-of-7 field goals, including two longs of 37 yards. He averaged 40.7 yards a punt with eight going inside the 20. He averaged 60 yards on his kickoffs with 25 being touchbacks. Recently, Hillger hit a 55-yard field goal during a practice session at Fenton High School.
Hillger’s competition will be two fifth-year seniors just joining the team and another freshman.
“I think field goals would be my strongest suit, and kickoffs as well,” Hillger said. “I feel like I’ve been more consistent. ... I feel like those areas are my best chance. But I feel like my punting has a good shot as well.”
Hope College has been knocking on the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s (MIAA) championship door for a few years, taking no worse than a tie for second in each of the last three seasons. Hope has lost just one MIAA contest in each of the last three seasons. The squad finished 8-2 a year ago. Hope hasn’t won a league title since sharing the crown with Olivet College in 2007. Hope won the title outright in 2006, earning the squad its last D3 national tournament bid.
Hillger starts practices Aug. 13. He’s added a lot of strength to his body since the start of his senior season.
“Lifting has definitely helped me,” Hillger said. “I’m stretching and being more flexible has helped me a lot. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga.”