On the eve of ArenaBowl XXIX, the Arena Football League handed out a few awards to go along with typical Media Day ceremonies. Joe Hills had his name called as Under Armour Offensive Player of the Year to go along with being named Cutters Wide Receiver of the Year and All-Arena First Team just one week earlier.
Hills, arguably the brightest spot of the Jacksonville Sharks offense, capped off one of the best seasons at his position in league history, which made him only the second ever Shark to win the Offensive Player of the Year award (the other being Aaron Garcia in the 2011 championship season).
Hills had already notched a spot on the All-Arena First Team and recognition as the Cutters Wide Receiver of the Year after putting together one of the best individual seasons by a receiver in the history of the League.
Coming over from the Tampa Bay Storm, Hills’ impact was felt day one, winning the receiving Triple Crown in leading the league in catches (161, 16 ahead of Rod Windsor, who will be in the ArenaBowl), yards (2,020, 353 ahead of Windsor), and touchdowns (58, 10 more than, you guessed it, Windsor). In the process, Hills crushed through Jomo Wilson‘s franchise record of 44 touchdowns set in 2011 (in perspective, that record would have tied for the league lead in 2015), and breaking his own single-season record. He also joined Tiger Jones as the only receivers with 2,000-yard seasons in Jacksonville history.
In what became one of the more talked about records as the season progressed, Hills continued his long-standing streak of catching a touchdown pass in every game, bringing his total to 72 in the regular season, six shy of Hall of Fame receiver Damian Harrell (78 games with the Colorado Crush and Chicago Rush). Along the way, Hills only had one game without multiple touchdowns, 12 three-score games, and 11 100-yard games, enough to finish seventh in all-purpose yards when you add his mere 16 yards rushing and three via kick returns.
Hills’ phenomenal performance reached its highest heights during the Sharks’ Week 9 victory over the Orlando Predators. In that game, Hills racked up 15 receptions for 173 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the first player in franchise history to score more than six touchdowns in a single game and coming just one touchdown shy of tying the all-time single-game AFL record.
Hills shined just as bright in the playoffs, leading the team with 24 catches for 269 yards and seven touchdowns in the two-game run against the Predators and Philadelphia Soul.
Needless to say, this will merit, and possibly require, a fantastic encore in 2017.