The highlight from his high school playing days at St. John’s Prep in Danvers?
Lonnie Hill, who grew up in Salem and spent four years at St. John’s, chuckled at the question.
“That’s a pretty easy one,” he said. “The Thanksgiving Day catch. As far as things that happened in high school, that was the most memorable. People rushed the field. It was a huge highlight. People talk about their heydays. That was my heyday.”
St. John’s Prep was ranked No. 2 and played host to No. 1 archrival Xaverian Brothers at Cronin Memorial Stadium in Danvers on Thanksgiving Day 2001. The winner would collect not only Turkey Day bragging rights, but a berth in the state tournament. “We were the underdogs and we had gone back and forth the entire game,” he said.
St. John’s made a late defensive stand and got the ball in a tie game with 3.3 seconds to play. Coach Jim O’Leary considered having his team run out the clock and move on to overtime.
Then he decided to have the Eagles, who didn’t pass often, take one last shot down the field from 54 yards out.
“Literally,’’ recalled Hill, “they said, ‘Lonnie, run down the field, and we’re going to throw it to you.’ ”
Hill, a senior, did so, and quarterback Dan Ross let the ball fly. At 6-foot-4 — taller than most others on the field — Hill went up and got it. Touchdown, and a 20-14 St. John’s victory.
As someone who’d focused on soccer before turning to football as a junior, Hill had himself quite a highlight.
He collected more at Brown. After missing most of his freshman season because of mononucleosis, he returned as a sophomore and caught 76 passes to lead the Ivy League. He finished his career with 154 catches, fourth-highest total in Brown history.
Better yet, he helped the Bears to their first Ivy League championship in 2005, when they went 6-1 in the league and 9-1 overall. Hill would go on to earn an MBA at Cornell’s Johnson School of Management.
Now 31, he works for the leadership development program at Chevron Corp. and was assigned to Thailand before a current stint in Los Angeles. He and his fiancée, Caroline Madison, are headed to Houston for his next assignment soon with their two children, Ty, 2, and Nyah, five months.
“Probably the biggest thing athletics did for me was it made me a competitor,” Hill said.
“It made me want to push myself to make me do the things I wanted to do with life. I also . . . thought about what was important in life, and I was mature enough to determine athletics didn’t have to be No. 1. But it did play a central role in all things that were critical to making me who I am.”
Allen Lessels can be reached at email@example.com.