By Austin Kleber
Going into Maryland’s 50-7 win over Purdue on last week, the Terps had yet to turn the ball over. Quarterback Perry Hills wanted to end the game that way, but the Boilermakers had other plans.
On his first pass attempt of the game, he threw an interception to Purdue’s Markus Bailey.
“When I ran off the field, I thought, ‘Damn it! Why’d I have to be the first one to turn the ball over?’” Hills said. “I was honestly trying to go the whole season without throwing an interception, but it happens.”
In a vote of confidence from head coach DJ Durkin, the very next offensive play was drawn up for Hills. He completed a 20-yard pass to Wes Brown and marched the Terps downfield.
Once the team was in striking position, Hills threaded the needle through the Purdue secondary to set up wide receiver Teldrick Morgan for a diving touchdown grab.
“He has great confidence in how he plays the position, and he should,” Durkin said of his veteran quarterback. “If he makes a mistake, he keeps his chin high and can’t wait to get back out there.”
Hills has become a more confident passer this year, which he credits to the work he did with former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte this offseason.
“Last year, I had more confidence in my legs because that’s what I worked on in the offseason,” Hills said. “Now, I worked on throwing in the offseason. The confidence has definitely been built up.”
Offensive lineman Mike Minter has taken notice of the improved Hills, while also adding that the redshirt senior seems more poised and focused during huddles.
“I think the biggest [improvement] with Perry this year would be his confidence level,” Minter said. “He trusts his throws more and he trusts his reads more.”
The Pittsburgh native is no stranger to toughness, either.
Hills started the first seven games during his breakout freshman year, but a torn ACL forced him to sit out the rest of the season and take a redshirt year his sophomore season.
He returned his junior year to an ill-managed team that saw former head coach Randy Edsall fired six games into the season. The Terp was a shell of the player he is now, as he threw 13 interceptions for a team that went 3-9 in 2015.
Knowing this season is his last chance to make an impact on the program, Hills came in with a chip on his shoulder.
“I told myself that I wanted to make the most out of this season and do everything I can to make this a successful season,” Hills said. “Going out there in a 3-9 season really hurts. Being a competitor, you don’t like that at all. You tell yourself that you’re going to do everything in your power to not let that happen again.”
Hills’ commitment to helping the Terps’ win is evident. After injuring his shoulder in the Sept. 17 matchup against UCF, offensive coordinator Walt Bell said that if they had a game the very next day, Hills would’ve fist fought him to play in it.
“He is as tough as a human being as possible,” Bell said. “A big part of his game is how rugged he is,” Bell said. “If he can’t play rugged, then he won’t be as good as he needs to be to be successful.”
Hills’ leadership isn’t limited to the football field. As a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, he has taken freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome under his wing and taught him the importance of working hard in the classroom.
“It all correlates to what happens on the field,” Hills said. “If you’re not doing the right things in the classroom, coach isn’t going to be able to trust you to do the right things out on the field on game day.”
As for what comes once he leaves Maryland, Hills said he would be willing to play in any professional football league, but he also is interested in criminal justice.
“I definitely want to continue playing football. When you’ve been playing since you are five years old, it’s kind of hard to let go of the game that you love,” Hills said. “If football doesn’t work out, even Canadian Football League, I was planning on doing something along the lines of law enforcement, FBI or Secret Service.”