'You can do anything': Des Moines North's Deavin Hilson picks Iowa, makes school history
Des Moines North's basketball team lost at Ottumwa on Friday. And, obviously, starting guard Deavin Hilson cared. But ... maybe (probably) not as much as he usually would.
Because, about 20 minutes before tipoff, Hilson got a call from Kirk Ferentz.
After a six-month recruitment that evolved from mild interest to the Hawkeyes honing in on the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Hilson as a potential February signing day target, Iowa's head football coach extended Hilson an offer. He accepted on the spot, 10 minutes before tipoff.
"I didn’t have time to collect myself because, as soon as I got off the phone, I had to go play a game," Hilson told the Register. "Then, the whole game, I’ve got a smile on my face the whole time. We ended up losing, but the whole time I didn’t really care that we lost. Like, come on — you know? I just had the great news."
A versatile athlete who played both linebacker and running back for the Polar Bears, Hilson also held an offer from Northern Iowa. He told the Register that Iowa projects him at running back, the position the Hawkeyes have been prioritizing for their final 2021 high school scholarship for several weeks.
Beyond basketball, Hilson also runs track and is a state qualifier in long jump.
Hilson will be the first North football player to go straight to a Division I program since 1991, and he is North's first Power Five football product since Marcus Butts played for Iowa State in the 1970s.
"(Ferentz) was just telling me he liked the way I’ve been taking my academics seriously the past couple months and really been grinding it out," Hilson said. "He was just like, 'Yeah, I want to give you a scholarship offer.' And I was like, 'What, for real?' And he was like, 'Yeah.' I was just sitting there stunned. After a minute of me collecting myself, I told him I wanted to commit.
"My mom, man, she wanted me to go here so bad so now that I’m actually able to, I’m fulfilling not just my but her dream, too."
Hilson quickly called his mom and football coach, Eric Addy, in the 10 minutes between Ferentz's call and his basketball game. With a laugh, he said his mom was just "screaming on the phone" and saying how proud of him she was.
He's proud of himself, too.
"Extremely," he said, emotion swelling in his voice. "You don’t understand. This whole summer with the pandemic and everything, we — not even just me, but my whole team, my lifelong brothers at this point — we really just stuck it out and grinded through all the adversity. Knowing that it paid off, it wasn’t just for nothing, regardless if we had two games or not, it just benefitted us.
"And knowing that this is not just for me. Just showing the younger people, people that look up to me, that you can do anything. Nobody in this city would’ve thought somebody from North would have gotten this far. As long as you believe in yourself and never, never stop trying, you can succeed in anything."
The Hawkeyes expressed interest in Hilson when he received his UNI offer in September, but they ramped up their interest in recent weeks as other running backs started falling off of their big board.
Iowa assistant defensive line coach Jay Niemann originally recruited Hilson as a linebacker, but running backs coach Derrick Foster started to get more involved with Hilson's recruitment recently, speaking to the North standout last Monday.
North's season was shortened this year due to COVID-19. In North's two games this year, Hilson rushed 11 times for 100 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, and he logged 10 tackles and 1.5 solo tackles for loss.
Hilson told the Register that Hawkeye coaches had been watching a lot of his basketball season, during which he's averaging about eight points and six rebounds per game for North. And they've also watched some clips from his performances at camps at Grandview, Minnesota State and Bemidji State from last summer.
With Hilson's commitment, Iowa's 2021 class now stands at 20, including UNI defensive back transfer Xavior Williams.
Hilson will sign with the Hawkeyes on signing day next Wednesday. He is the No. 47 in-state 2021 prospect in the Register's recruiting rankings.
Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.