Jonathan Hillel of Mount Si High in Snoqualmie, Washington, actually got more time at free safety on defense, and most recently as a starter on the basketball team, than he did last season at quarterback.
Much like NFA standout Morgan Mahalak (Marin Catholic, Kentfield, Calif.), who received an offer from Oregon before starting a varsity game because he was an understudy to current Cal quarterback Jared Goff, “JoJo” as his father Jean Hillel nicknamed him as a baby, has had to be a backup to Nick Mitchell.
Mitchell accepted an offer to Oregon State because of his prowess, so JoJo had to bide his time.
Hillel had to be content with three interceptions including a pick six on defense, and a mop-up role at signal-caller on a team that finished 9-2 and went to the second round of the Washington Boys State Football Championships 3A division eventually won by nationally-ranked Bellevue, perennially the top team in The Evergreen State.
Best back-up in the state
Hillel isn’t where Mahalak was at this stage of his career, and he doesn’t have any offers, but since he began working with NFA Senior Certified Quarterback Instructor and National Lead Camp Coach JC Boice three years ago, and attended 15 NFA camps, he’s more than on the radar screen.
Not only has he impressed Boice, but he has been impressive in several other camps since as early as 2008. As a result he heads to Las Vegas where he’s been invited to participate in next weekend’s Elite 7-on-7 put on by Pylon Elite Camps Football.
“JoJo Hillel was without a doubt the best back-up in the state of Washington last year,” Boice said.
“I expect very big things for JoJo in 2014,” continued Boice. “Aside from being a very good athlete that has all the physical tools, he is also one of the more intelligent young men I have worked with, and his leadership is a very big plus as well. He has a great attitude and kids like being around him.”
“As a quarterback JoJo is tough in the pocket but also has ability to escape and extend plays. He is just a real playmaker. What a lot of college programs are soon going to discover as well is that JoJo is very young. He is going to graduate very young and has a lot of natural maturing to do physically speaking. He is a full year younger than athletes in his class. Give him another year of growth and he is going to be even more explosive.”
Mount Si head coach Charlie Kinnune agrees with Boice about the 6-foot-2 Hillel and his goal of getting to 180-pounds fairly soon and developing more physically with workouts and lifting five days a week.
“He does need to get stronger so he can develop more speed at the point of attack.”
On being a back-up
“Its been tough, especially when the coaches tell me I could start at almost every other school, but Nick is a great quarterback and I’ve watched him and learned from him,” said the 3.2 GPA student-athlete whose favorite subject is U.S. History.
“Now that I’m getting my opportunity I want to prove I’m more than a back-up and I have a lot more to offer,” continued JoJo, who gets his football roots from Jean, an enterprise architect that’s been coaching all levels of football for 25 years and who played at the college level growing up in Quebec.
New rivals and expectations
Snoqualmie, 20-miles southeast of Seattle, is growing, and so has the enrollment at Mount Si. This coming season they are moving up to 4A, so they won’t play Bellevue. Instead, the Wildcats will play Skyline and Eastlake of neighboring Sammamish, and Bothell, all perennial Washington big-school powers.
“Our goal is to win a 4A state title,” JoJo told NFA Nation. “It’s a lot to ask for, and maybe some teams won’t take us seriously, but we’re going to come out every day and make it happen.
Best attributes and what JoJo likes about being a quarterback
“Our system is flexible enough to fit JoJo right in,” Kinnune said. “He’s lanky but very athletic so we’ll put him on the move. His other best attributes are his ability to change direction, a nice touch, and he’s pretty savvy.”
JoJo on the move as a back-up
“I’ve always liked being the quarterback since I began playing at seven,” said JoJo. “You take command of everything. When you win or lose a game it’s on you. You’re the one everyone looks up to when you’re going out there every day and grinding.”
“My favorite player is Chris Schlichting (a 6-5, 270-pound Mount Si lineman). We’ve been best buddies since the second grade. My favorite quarterback is Cam Newton. He’s pretty exciting to watch.”
What NFA and working with Coach Boice has meant
“When I came into NFA I knew nothing about mechanics. They tuned me up.”
“JC has come a long way with me. He always has something new to fix. He’s been very helpful.”
“At camps I’ve talked to a lot of college coaches and now I know going into the college camps I have to show them what they want and what I’ve learned from people like JC.”
“For me it’s about going and getting an education. That comes first. Hopefully the school I choose has a top football program.”
The way JoJo is progressing and impressing people like Boice, chances are a top program very well lies in the future of Jonathan “JoJo Hillel, a back-up no more.