ELITE 11: ‘X-factor’ sets Hillie apart from others

By ROBBIE ROBERTSON,

For the last two years, Tre Hillie has played in the shadows of several college prospects at Newton High School.

Now Hillie is the unquestioned leader of the Newton offense as he enters his senior year with the Tigers. He’s also the second player named to The Newton County Appeal’s Elite 11 team.

Since starting as a freshman at Newton County and transferring to Newton, Hillie has amassed some monster offensive numbers.

In three years, Hillie has thrown for 5,245 yards on 344-of-607 attempts with 57 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Last year, Hillie was 120-of-203 passing for 1,988 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions.

“He is an extremely naturally gifted and talented quarterback,” former Newton coach Ryan Smith said. “His arm is dynamic. It’s not taught. He throws a great level-three ball and throws the deep ball really well. He’s a gamer. On Friday night is when he is the best. He wants to be the guy.”

Smith said the thing that makes Hillie so dangerous is what he calls the “x-factor.”

“The biggest thing is the x-factor,” Smith said. “Quarterbacks are naturally talented and can prep for those things. His ability to create is what makes the difference for him. That’s when he is dangerous. That’s what makes him special is the fact that he wants it in his hands and can make something out of nothing. There would be times when he would break out and I would be yelling, ‘No, no’ and then I’d be like ‘Go, go.’”

That x-factor is what new coach Zack Grady also likes in his new quarterback.

“He is extremely athletic,” Grady said. “He has good speed. He’s the type of kid you want to build your program around. That’s my first evaluation of him. More than anything, we are trying to figure out what his strengths are and build around that. He’s a kid that has already had a lot of success.”

In his three years, he has rushed for 1,309 yards on 325 attempts and led the Tigers in rushing last year with 618 yards on 124 carries.

“A lot of guys thought he would play a skill position,” Grady said. “I’m not sure he can’t play quarterback at the next level. If you can move the pocket around, he can deliver the football. He’s a kid that will be able to write his own ticket and we will try to showcase all of those skills that he has and try to win some football games. I think he’s capable of rushing for a 1,000 this year.”

Grady said he can’t say what exactly the offense will look like next year, whether it be a run-oriented or pass-oriented offense.

“We can’t really say because we didn’t have spring ball,” Grady said. “I haven’t gotten to see them under the fire yet. We are going to do what’s best for the team. But I do know that if you have a guy that can throw it, you are going to throw it. But to say what we are going to do is pretty premature right now.”

With Newton losing a majority of its receivers with five signing to play college football, Hillie will have to take on more responsibility.

“He has to be a team leader,” Grady said. “With the amount of experience he has, there’s no doubt. He has done it before. It’s hard to be a leader if you haven’t done it. And he has done it at a high level.”

Hillie said it doesn’t matter where he plays but it seems like he always ends up at quarterback.

“I was planning on being a receiver when I came here,” Hillie said. “I was going to compete at quarterback but didn’t plan on starting there. But they needed me there and it just worked out. I’ve been playing quarterback since I was young and it seems like I always end up at quarterback. I don’t really care, whatever is best for the team.”