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At home out West: Duluth grad happy as Fresno's football operations coordinator

As far as turning points go, at least in his professional life, none was bigger for Drew Hill than back in the late 1990s when he was wrapping up his two-year baseball career at DeKalb College.

The catcher, who helped Duluth to the 1995 state finals, had an opportunity to walk on with Georgia State's baseball team but he also had the opportunity to leave college and take a job in the Atlanta Falcons' college scouting department. After some consideration, he ended his baseball dream and chose the Falcons, an organization he had worked for in the summers throughout high school.

That one decision shaped the now 30-year-old's career path and took him where he is now - football operations coordinator at Fresno State.

"Honestly I don't know where I'd be (if I had played baseball at Georgia State)," said Hill, who played football, basketball and baseball at Duluth. "All I knew was pro football. If I took that walk-on spot at Georgia State, somebody else would have had my job in Atlanta. So I can't tell you where I'd be, what I'd be doing."

So instead of playing college baseball, Hill worked for the Falcons in college scouting with tasks that included logging video of college players and getting the team's draft board ready. He described himself as "a full-time employee on intern pay."

His reward for taking the Falcons' job was traveling with the franchise when it made the Super Bowl. He eventually went back to college at Southern Mississippi, with the intent of rejoining the Falcons when he graduated although those plans were derailed when the team was sold to Arthur Blank and no job was open for him.

So he continued working on scholarship with the football operations coordinator at Southern Miss. He graduated from Southern Miss in 2002 and worked at his alma mater until the opportunity came up at Fresno State.

In his current job, he and a full-time coach handle the school's recruiting efforts but that's a small part of his duties. He manages all Fresno State's travel, lodging and food arrangements, he is the Bulldogs' pro liasion and is even responsible for tedious things, like making sure the field is painted. On road trips, he typically travels ahead of the team to make sure everything is in order.

He said organization is the key to tackling the workload.

"People from the outside, they all think (my job's) great," said Hill, who still sees a number of his NFL friends, like former Falcon assistant Joe DeCamillis, because he's an NFL liasion. "I don't think anybody outside of the staff and coaches at other schools know how much work goes into it."

Hill said he and his wife, a fellow Southern Miss grad who he married in 2005, are even starting to enjoy the California life. He said he's very happy at Fresno, where he plans to be for quite some time.

"I see myself with (Fresno head coach) Pat Hill (no relation) in the future, it would be hard to leave him," said Hill, whose team is hosting Sacramento State today before road trips to Texas A&M and Oregon. "I like the way he runs the ship. It's the closest to a pro organization as you can get."

FOOTBALL

Kenney shines in debut

Dacula grad Cameron Kenney was a star in his first game at Garden City Community College (Kan.), helping his team to a 28-19 win over Trinity Valley CC (Texas).

The true freshman handled numerous bad snaps, but turned one into a game-deciding play. Scooping up an errant snap midway through the fourth quarter on his own 15-yard line, Kenney raced 68 yards to up a Garden City touchdown and a 28-13 lead.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder also scored the Broncbusters' first points, catching a 47-yard TD pass. He finished with three catches for 54 yards.

SOCCER

Mingledorff nets hat trick

Berkmar grad Jessica Mingledorff scored all three goals on Thursday in Georgia Perimeter College's 3-2, season-opening win over Shelton State. Mingledorff is GPC's team captain.

"Mingledorff set the tone of the game," GPC coach Jessica Wheeler said of the sophomore. "From the first whistle until the last whistle, she hustled and played very well. Her leadership really showed throughout the game."

English records another shutout

Brookwood grad Jessica English helped North Georgia to back-to-back shutouts in her first two college soccer games. The goalkeeper's second shutout came Wednesday as the Saints blanked Limestone College 2-0.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com or via fax to 770-339-8081.

SideBar: IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS

A quick look at where to watch former Gwinnett standouts in this weekend's college football action:

Noon - UAB at Michigan State, ESPN2

For UAB, Dacula's Zach Lankford (No. 84) plays tight end, Grayson's Logan Creel (No. 72) plays offensive line, Meadowcreek's Kelvin Quarles (No. 52) plays defensive line, Grayson's Jim Mitchell (No. 40) plays running back and Shiloh's Justin Smart (No. 26) plays defensive back.

Noon - Colorado at Colorado State, FSN

Grayson's Conrad Obi (No. 93) plays defensive end for Colorado.

3:30 p.m. - Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, NBC

For Georgia Tech, Buford's Kyle Manley (No. 11) plays quarterback, Duluth's Tyler Davis (No. 86) plays wide receiver, Duluth's Jason Davis (No. 45) plays running back, Norcross' Luke Snider (No. 66) plays linebacker, Duluth's Iain Vance (No. 12) is a kicker, South's Zach Krish (No. 79) is an offensive lineman and Norcross' Bryce Dykes (No. 16) plays quarterback.

3:30 p.m. - Wake Forest at Boston College, ABC

For Wake Forest, Collins Hill's Barrett McMillan (No. 61) plays offensive line, GAC's Ben Wooster (No. 85) plays tight end, GAC's Micah Andrews (No. 3) plays running back, Meadowcreek's Cyhl Quarles (No. 28) plays linebacker.

3:30 p.m. - Ole Miss at Memphis, CSS

North's Jason Cook (No. 44) plays fullback for Ole Miss.

6:45 p.m. - Oklahoma State at Georgia, ESPN2

For Georgia, Buford's Mikey Henderson (No. 27) plays wide receiver, GAC's Brannan Southerland (No. 36) plays fullback, Norcross' Fred Munzenmaier (No. 48) plays fullback, Collins Hill's Brandon Coutu (No. 96) is the kicker, GAC's Caleb King (No. 22) plays running back, Brookwood's Rennie Curran (No. 35) plays linebacker and Peachtree Ridge's Drew Butler (No. 13) is a punter.

7 p.m. - Presbyterian at Furman, CSS

For Presbyterian, Berkmar's Antoine Carter (No. 18) plays cornerback, Buford's Brandon Clark (No. 7) plays wide receiver, South's Jon Harris (No. 93) plays defensive line, Wesleyan's Edward Van Winkle (No. 74) plays defensive line and Buford's Blake Skipper plays defensive line.

For Furman, Buford's Masharn Austin (No. 18) plays cornerback, Buford's Mark Standridge (No. 30) plays running back, Buford's David Hendrix (No. 86) plays wide receiver, Norcross' Trent Hawk is a punter.

7:45 p.m. - Kansas State at Auburn, ESPN

For Auburn, Parkview's Brad Lester (No. 1) plays running back, South's Rod Smith (No. 80) plays wide receiver, Snellville's Michael Hatter (No. 67) plays offensive line.