Calvin Hill: Here's how Grant decided to play basketball
(Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
Talk of Fame Network
Calvin Hill was a star football player at Yale, Dallas and, for a brief time, the World Football League. But his son, Grant, went in another direction. He was a star basketball player at Duke and the NBA and was so good he wound up in the basketball Hall of Fame.
So why did he choose not to follow his father's lead? Calvin Hill told the Talk of Fame Network that it was an easy decision, with his son making up his mind at an early age.
“That was his choice,” Hill said of Grant’s decision to play basketball. “He wanted to play (at a young age), and I took to Pop Warner when he was 8 or 9. (But) I didn’t like the coach. The coach was the reincarnation of Bill Parcells or Vince Lombardi or something, and I just said, ‘I’m not going to have my kid coached by this guy.
“I told Grant I didn’t start playing organized football until I was in the ninth grade. And I told him, ‘When you’re in ninth grade, you have my permission if you want to try out.’ "
But he didn’t, and it wasn’t until years later that Dad found out what sport interested Grant.
“He and I were playing tennis at the local high school,” Calvin said. “He was going into his eighth grade, and by this time he had played in the AAU program. And so we’re playing tennis and the local high school is coming out for its first practice. It’s August, and it’s hot, and I look at the team coming out and I say, ‘Grant, well, that will be you next year – trying out for the freshman team or the jayvee or the varsity.’
“And he looked at me and said, ‘Dad, you think I want to have all that equipment on in this kind of weather on that hard field?’ Then then he pointed toward the gym, and he said, ‘Next year I’m going to be in that air-conditioned building playing basketball.’ That was my first inkling that Grant might go to college. He was smarter than his old man.”
Maybe. But Calvin Hill did alright for himself. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro, NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and a member of a Super Bowl team. But when he signed on with the World Football League in 1974 he would make, he said, more money in one year than he did in 12 seasons in the NFL. His contract was a three-year deal, and it was all guaranteed – and good thing, too. The WFL folded after a year and a half.
“I was shocked at what they were offering,” he said of the WFL’s Hawaiians’ franchise. “Essentially, I had no intention of going any place except just to get a counter (offer from Dallas); to get the Cowboys moving (Hill’s contract was expiring).
“I think the reason I signed … it wasn’t necessarily about the money. (But) after my rookie year and after my first contract was over after my third year I thought I was treated pretty shabbily by Tex (Schramm, the Dallas GM). I went from a guy who probably would’ve played for nothing – I was just so excited to being in the National Football League – to being … I got a dash of cold water after my rookie year in terms of what can happen.
“So I probably was emotionally ready to leave and go someplace else. But I never thought it would happen the way it did.”