Hillesheim hits historic milestone
By Jake Calhoun
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM – Jordan Hillesheim has done what no other running back in the town’s history has accomplished.
The senior running back at New Ulm High School eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark, making him the only player to do so between all three of the town’s schools – including New Ulm Cathedral and Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
Having started at running back since his sophomore year, Hillesheim has amassed 3,177 yards – including 428 yards through five games this year – so far and has done so with his notoriously blazing speed for which he has become known.
“He’s one of the fastest guys on the team, if not the fastest,” fellow senior Cooper Yackley said. “He does track too and he does really well at that as well.”
One of the key attributes that has made Hillesheim such a dangerous running back is his ability to get up field and meet contact head-on instead of shying away from it. That, along with his speed, has made him dangerous in the backfield.
“Jordan Hillesheim is a coach’s dream; he does anything that you ask,” first-year New Ulm coach Corey Kneeshaw said. “He’s a tough runner – very hard to bring down on first contact. He runs with his shoulders square, so he’s a north-south runner for us. He’s not too much of an east-west runner, which is good because in our offense, we like to get guys going north-south and that’s the type of runner that Jordan is.”
One root of Hillesheim’s athleticism, interestingly enough, harks back to his upbringing as a farm hand on his family farm near Sigel Township. He and his brother are always helping their father wrangle up the farm’s 60 cows, which can be quite an exhausting task without the right mentality.
“It helped running around after 60 cows that weigh hundreds of pounds more than you,” Hillesheim said. “You can’t be scared of them, you can’t be scared of a big cow running at you – you’ve got to get loud and get in front of them. But it’s really helped with my quickness running after all those cows and getting loud.”
That work ethic has carried over to the practice field, where Kneeshaw has repeatedly had to hold Hillesheim back from going too hard because he never takes a play off.
“He’s run hard all the time, he’s not afraid of contact,” Yackley said. “When you think he’s going to hit you, he’ll go around you or put a move on you or just go through you.”
Despite the fact that Hillesheim has been starting since he was a sophomore, he was moved up to varsity as a freshman toward the end of the season. There, he experienced firsthand how much more physical the game is at the varsity level.
Even in practice, Hillesheim learned the hard way how to toughen up from the hits he took.
“When I got moved up as a freshman, I got laid out by Cooper’s older brother, Jackson, all the time and Tevin Mooter was a real tough guy too,” Hillesheim said. “They really helped toughen me up to be the kind of football player that I am today.”
With the coaching change this past summer, Hillesheim was one of the first players to buy into Kneeshaw’s system and the changes it has brought since Day 1. As one of the leaders on the team, this has helped the younger players buy in as well.
“It’s very easy to buy into what coach Kneeshaw is saying because he’ll go out there and give everything for you he’s got also,” Hillesheim said. “He’ll lay down his life in front of you and give you everything as a coach and he expects the same from you as a player. So it’s really easy to play for a guy who cares so much about you and the team.”
This has boded well for New Ulm, which has won multiple games for the first time since 2011.
Now, Hillesheim and Co. will try to win a few more to gain some momentum heading into the Section 2AAAA playoffs.
But as for Hillesheim, even though he admits he can be a little cocky at times, he still does not like to rub it in other people’s faces. Instead, he prefers to give credit to his teammates for the success he has had on the field.
“Against St. Peter, I went to my linemen right away and thanked them,” Hillesheim said. “I told them that this win was because of you guys. I’m a guy who doesn’t take the credit, I like to give it to my teammates for all the hard work they’ve done.”