Donovan Hillary’s versatility helped him make a name for himself on the football field.
His versatility — both athletically and academically — should serve him well as he pursues an education with the Queen’s Golden Gaels.
The Grade 12 River East Collegiate student, who turns 18 next month, was one of seven new recruits the Kingston, Ont.-based school unveiled on March 19. He plans to take science classes with an eye toward perhaps going into medicine later on.
"The main reason I chose Queen’s over anybody else is that it’s a strong academic school mixed with a strong football team — it really had everything I was looking for in a school," Hillary said. "Right now, I’m stuck between pre-med and exploring a couple other options (academically).
"I’ll take the first semester to decide what field of the sciences I’m interested in."
Hillary is multi-talented on the field of play as well. With the Kodiaks, the six-foot-one, 220-pound linebacker was far and away the Winnipeg High School Football League’s John Potter AAA Division leader with 91 tackles — 40 better than his nearest competition. He also made 14 special teams tackles while picking up two fumbles and recording a sack as River East went 3-4-1 in 2013.
As part of the provincial program, though, Hillary jumps up to the line as a defensive end. He most recently competed for Team Toba’s U18 entry at last year’s Football Canada Cup in Moncton, N.B., helping the local side to a 2-2 record.
Hillary feels learning how to play on the defensive line helped his game as a linebacker, the position he anticipates he’ll play with Queen’s.
"I do feel the two positions really complement themselves," he said. "My speed as a linebacker really translated well as a defensive end, for sure, and the hand-to-hand combat of the D-line really comes in handy as a linebacker."
Hillary noted provincial coaches in the U16 program initially thought he’d best serve the team on the line, and though he tried out as a linebacker in his first year of eligibility with the U18 team, he found himself in the trenches once again.
"One of the last practices in the first phase, they did switch me to D-line, and I did make the team as a D-lineman," he said.
Hillary, who is originally from Collingwood, Ont. and moved to Winnipeg at age nine, is looking forward to returning to his southern Ontario roots and enjoying some of the region’s milder winters.
He added his longtime goal has been to make it to the university level and hasn’t thought about a professional career beyond that, but added Queen’s is a good springboard to the Canadian Football League. Four Gaels attended last month’s CFL combine in Toronto.