Hillman goes the extra 413 miles

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Casey Hillman’s hypothetical conversation with a group of close friends turned into a 400-mile, across-the-state journey raising nearly $8,500 for the SDSU athletic fund.

“How much would somebody have to pay you to walk 400 miles across South Dakota?” instigated the entire two-week expedition.

“My friend Jeff said, “why don’t you do it for an SDSU fundraiser?’ and I was intrigued by the whole prospect of whether or not I could do it,” Hillman said.

The idea didn’t leave Hillman’s mind. Eventually, the over two-million-foot walk became a reality and began two weeks before the SDSU football team’s home opener against Illinois State.

A former SDSU defensive back himself, Hillman battled blisters, swollen ankles and general pain in his legs – all before crossing the Missouri River.

He worried about infections in his feet from the blisters in Midland, only 150 of the 400-plus miles completed. On top of that, gusting winds and occasional rain impacted the way he walked on his already fatigued body.

He wondered if anyone knew what he was doing, whether the blisters, exhausted legs and time away from his family was a waste of time. The swelling in his ankles was so bad he wondered if he caused structural damage from the 30 miles of walking per day.

He laughed at the thought of SDSU practicing while he walked to Pierre, then Harrold, then Miller to raise money to see them play.

From Nemo to Pierre, Hillman saw one person he knew and dozens of farmers he didn’t.

“There weren’t any celebrations or anything in town,” Hillman said. “It seemed like nobody knew about it.”

Though Hillman did most of the walking by himself, SDSU fanatic and alumnus Keith Jensen walked with him for a few miles. SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell also joined for a few hours in Huron. On the day of the football game, his brother joined him in Arlington for the final twenty-mile stretch with his father walking the final six miles from Volga to the stadium with no problems 8212; the product of adrenaline from the final day’s event.

“The mornings were when I was the most pathetic, but after a few days I realized that the pain goes away once I get going and warm up a bit,” Hillman said. “There were some moments where I thought I maybe bit off more than I could chew.”

Hillman received plenty of recognition from fans and friends while tailgating before delivering the game ball to a nice ovation from the 12,425 fans at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, a crowd that saw SDSU fail to recover from a 24-0 deficit against Illinois State.

“Sometimes in our business we forgot about all the things people do for our football program and for our athletic department,” SDSU football head coach John Stiegelmeier said after the Jacks’ 24-14 loss. “I called Casey this week and talked to him … it just was a great gesture, a great effort to highlight South Dakota State football, athletics and the university.”

For Hillman, the proudest and most exciting moments came when he walked on the field with two of his children8212;the same field he played on and earned second-team all-North Central Conference in 1999 when he led the team with six interceptions.

“It was kind of overwhelming,” Hillman said. “That was the first time I’d been on that field since 2001, it was exciting and I know that I’ll never do something like that ever again.”

#1.1641473:2474073651.jpg:Casey Hillman walks with two of his children, Lawrence and Alaric.:Casey Hillman walks with two of his children, Lawrence and Alaric, to midfield with the game ball before Saturday?s home opening game against Illinois State.:Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson