Jonathan “JoJo” Hillel was a little rusty at the start of this season, and that is quite understandable.
As a junior at Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Washington, last year, Hillel could typically be found standing on the sidelines when the Wildcats had possession of the football.
Nick Mitchell was Mount Si’s starting varsity quarterback in 2013, and he’s moved on to Oregon State.
That created a spot for Hillel this season, and the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder was not at all satisfied with how it started. “Earlier in the season, I was a little tentative and sometimes, some of the balls I threw, guys were wide open and I was kind of babying the ball in there because I wasn’t sure,” Hillel said. “As I’ve progressed through the season, there’s been a noticable difference. My reads have been cleaner and our team has progressed as well. We’re running everything sharper.
I feel like I’ve grown as a quarterback.”
Hillel has guided the Wildcats to a 5-4 record in the rugged KingCo 4A Conference, which features powerhouse schools like Bothell, Skyline and Newport. Through the Wildcats’ first eight games, he ranked third in the league with 1,562 passing yards and third with 15 touchdowns.
“I learned a lot from (Mitchell),” Hillel said. “But I think the biggest key with this season was getting into my own style. I learned some things from him, but it was importabt to play my style of football.”
And what is your style of football? “This year, we incorporated the zone read for me,” Hillel said. “I have a little bit of athleticism, so I’m able to use that in the offense. I like to run the ball, get outside of the pocket, make plays and find my receivers open downfield.”
Working with NFA since he was in seventh grade, doing private training with JC Boice and even giving back and helping younger QBs at NFA camps have all helped Hillel develop his game.
“When I started with NFA, I was pretty raw,” he said. “I didn’t have much technique and I was getting by on athleticism. The ball was coming out nice, but NFA gave me that extra zip on the ball that colleges are looking for, that extra 10 yards on the ball. They’ve worked with me on some R4 things and given me reads that I haven’t been able to see before. They’ve really benefitted my game and taken it to the next level.”
Also a standout safety on defense, Hillel has been playing quarterback since he was seven years old. “I think the biggest thing I’ve always liked about quarterback is the leadership role,” he said. “Everybody looks up to you and the game’s in your hands. When it comes to down to it, you’re the guy and that’s aways been appealing to me.”
Even though he has just one year of varsity experience under his belt, Hillel has shown he has the skills to compete at the next level. He’a already received a partial scholarship offer from the University of Minnesota-Crookston and is talking to Eastern Washington, Central Washington and Western Oregon. Hillel has taken an unofficial visit to EWU.
“I really hope I can play in college,” he said. “It’s tough for schools to look at me because I only have one year of starting, but hopefully I was able to show enough this year so schools give me a chance. Ever since I came into high school and realized what I wanted to do, having my parents not pay for college would be an awesome thing. I think it would be a huge benefit.”