A farewell to Mitch Hillis, the greatest receiver in Huskies football history

Photo by Electric Umbrella.

He’s a three-time Canada West All-Star and a two-time U-Sports All Canadian. He’s the all-time program leader in career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in program history. He’s the Canada West’s all-time leader in career receiving yards. Mitch Hillis is one of the program’s all-time greats.

When Mitch first stepped into the Huskies clubhouse as a member of the program in 2013, there was at least one familiar face in the room. His brother and fellow receiver Kit Hillis was already a star for the Huskies.

Kit, who spent four years with the program, will forever cherish his time spent playing with his brother.

“It was incredibly special, being able to not only play with Mitch but for both of us be lined up beside each other as receivers. Football is already a brotherhood, but to be able to celebrate with your brother in the endzone is something I’ll never forget,” Kit said.

Playing alongside Kit was a career-changing experience for Mitch, and receiving mentorship from a player of that caliber was extremely beneficial for the long-term success of his career.

“Playing with your brother, who is five years older than you, is something not many people get to experience. I am grateful for the experience, because it brought us closer than we had ever been and allowed me to learn from him in his element. He showed me the ropes on how to be a good leader, teammate, and more importantly, a good role model,” said Mitch.

Mitch showed glimpses of his potential during his first two seasons with the program, amassing 551 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

In his third year with the Huskies, Mitch made his name known on the national stage, setting the program’s single-season record in receptions, with 66, and receiving yards, with 1052.

After his fourth year was plagued by injury, Mitch bounced back in a big way in 2017. He racked up 935 yards on 52 receptions while finding the end zone on ten occasions.

Mitch played his final game with the program on Oct. 28, against the Manitoba Bisons at Griffiths Stadium, and he went out with a bang. He recorded 13 receptions for 219 yards, gaining the yards he needed to break the Canada West record for career receiving yards.

Despite this success, the Huskies failed to qualify for the post-season this year for the first time since 2000, making for a disappointing end to a spectacular individual career.

Nevertheless, Kit enjoyed watching Mitch from the broadcast booth this season, where he served as a radio analyst for CJWW.

“When we were playing together, we became best friends and we celebrated our accomplishments together, but these last few years, I’ve been able to watch as a fan and a proud brother and not worry about my own football career,” Kit said.

Looking back on his years with the program, the relationships that Mitch has developed with people along the way will always emerge for him as life-changing experiences.

“The thing that stands out to me is when I take a step back and look at all the people and friends I have met through playing football for five years with the Huskies. All of my teammates obviously, alumni who played, athletes from other sports — it is just amazing how many networks and connections you make playing a sport,” Mitch said.

Huskies quarterback Kyle Siemens has developed an fantastic on-field connection with Mitch over the course of his career. Thanks to Mitch and Siemens, this Huskies offense has been arguably one of the most explosive in the country over the past three seasons, and Siemens has appreciated the opportunity to toss the rock to Mitch.

“[Throwing to Mitch] has been unbelievable. To have a receiver who you can rely on as a quarterback is a major confidence boost. Whenever we needed a play, or a spark to get our team going, he was always there to do it,” Siemens said.

Siemens spoke of Mitch’s spectacular on-field vision.

“The game comes so naturally to him. He’s able to see the field and react to what’s going on around him, which is something a lot of athletes cannot do,” Siemens said.

Huskies Head Coach Scott Flory, who’s had the opportunity to spend the past four seasons around Mitch, acknowledges his contributions to the program and the challenges that will come in the 2018 season without having him lined up in the slot.

“I will remember a lot about Mitch because he has been an absolute pleasure to coach but a few things that stick out are his savviness, athleticism and ability to be at his best in games.  He was a trusted player whom we knew in critical times would make the play for his team. We will miss him a lot, that’s for sure,” Flory said.

Mitch has accomplished almost everything on an individual basis at the U Sports level. He was drafted by the British Columbia Lions in the eighth round of last year’s draft and will turn his focus back to the pro level once he finishes up his kinesiology degree in April.

“My life will be primarily the same until the end of the school year. I will be training in the off-season like every other year. The difference will come in the spring once I go to a CFL camp, and from there, your guess is as good as mine as to what to expect,” Mitch said.

Flory, who’s been in a similar position as a Huskie moving onto the CFL, had some simple advice for Hillis.

“Work hard and compete on a daily basis.  Things change so fast in professional sport and athletes aren’t given much time to showcase their abilities so when the opportunity is there you have to be at your best.  I think he’ll do great and hopefully has a career in the CFL,” Flory said.

Mitch Hillis’s career will go down as one of the best in program history by an individual player. His numerous contributions to the program are substantial and shouldn’t go unnoticed, something his brother Kit is proud of.

“Mitch had an incredible career, and I’m glad the records can showcase his tremendous accomplishments.”


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