In North Central football’s first two games of the season, big plays have come from a mixture of familiar faces and less well-known characters. Senior running back Terrence Hill has been a staple of the Cardinals offense for years, while junior safety Julian Bell is new to much of the roster having returned to North Central this season after playing a pivotal role in the 2019 run to the Stagg Bowl.
Terrence Hill and Julian Bell’s Season Preparations
Hill is the second half of a two-headed monster rushing attack for the Cardinals along with All American Ethan Greenfield. The two had a weightlifting competition in the summer of 2021 as a way to push each other. Despite not having as elaborate a preparation for 2022, Hill says their attitude to making each other better hasn’t changed.
“We just challenge each other on a daily basis in practice,” Hill said of his and Greenfield’s relationship. “Especially in the offseason, we were getting extra work in on Saturdays.”
Meanwhile, the 2022 preseason has been one of deja vu for Bell, who spent last year at Roosevelt University. While he’s excited to have a Cardinals uniform back on, it’s factors off the field that ultimately motivated his return to the program.
“Here in Naperville, I have a community that I know believes in me and pushes me to be the best person on and off the field,” Bell said. “The family environment is the ultimate reason I decided to come back.”
Bell has been one of the Cardinals top defensive performers through two games, including notching two tackles, a pass break-up and an interception all on the first defensive drive against Carthage.
“My roommates (including Hill and tight end Matt Robinson) push me to be the best version of myself,” he said. “And on that first drive I think everyone on the field did their one-through-eleven and that put me in a good position to make plays.”
Running and Defensive Back Position Group Excellence
For as good as they’ve been at running the ball in recent years, the 2022 Cardinals might have their deepest running back room ever. Six different backs have already made an impact, and Hill is excited about the place the group is in heading into his final season.
“In that room it’s brotherly kind of thing,” Hill said of the Cardinals collection of ball-carriers. “We like to say we’re the best running back group in the nation. A lot of it comes from trust, building each other up, and knowing that even when Ethan or I aren’t in [the other running backs] are able to make those plays.”
While Greenfield and Hill have provided stability at running back, there’s a lot of change at defensive back after three of the four starters graduated. For Bell and his fellow DBs, a fast learning curve has been vital for them to perform at the highest level only weeks after all meeting for the first time.
“Obviously watching film, but also trying to get to know each other outside of football,” said Bell. “I feel like as a secondary we’ve really put in the time and effort to be able to go out there and trust one another when it’s game time.”
The 2021 North Central football team was in many ways defined by it’s fifth-year seniors. This season, there’s an even larger contingent with the extra year of experience, and Hill is certainly not taking the opportunity to make an impact on and off the field for granted.
“I’m just grateful to be here, to be in a position where I can be a leader on the team and that guys can look up to me,” said Hill. “Personally I just want to leave it all out there, not have any regrets, be the best teammate, the best player and best person that I can be.