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Football: Lincoln-Way North’s Julian Hylton showing he’s a quick study

Lincoln-Way Northís Julian Hylt(21) | File photo

Lincoln-Way Northís Julian Hylton (21) | File photo

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Updated: October 5, 2013 6:25AM



Julian Hylton’s first love growing up on Chicago’s South Side was basketball. He couldn’t get enough of the game.

“I loved it,” said Hylton, a senior at Lincoln-Way North. “Basketball was my sport.”

That is, until he moved to Tinley Park before starting seventh grade.

“All my friends in Tinley Park were playing football for the Frankfort Wildcats,” Hylton said. “They were pushing me to play football. I always wanted to play football growing up, but never signed up.”

Hylton’s mother, Karla, needed a little convincing to allow her son to play the physical sport.

“One of the Wildcat coaches, Rob Swaim, talked to my mom and convinced her to let me play,” Hylton said.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Hylton’s basketball career is over. His football career, however, is starting to take flight.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound running back earned SouthtownStar All-Area honors in 2012, racking up 1,186 yards on 155 carries and scoring 20 touchdowns. The Phoenix had multiple weapons last season, which meant Hylton had to share the pigskin. This season, he’s the focal point to the Phoenix offense.

“If he isn’t, you have permission to come up and hit me upside my head with a baseball bat,” North coach George Czart said.

If Saturday’s season-opening 47-7 win over LaSalle-Peru is any indication, Hylton could be on the verge of making a run at Player of the Year honors. He rushed for 266 yards and two scores during the rout.

“He’s the real deal,” LaSalle-Peru coach Joe Sassano told the Illinois Valley News Tribune. “He’s got great vision, he’s got great speed and he’s got great strength. That’s why he’s going to Illinois.

Hylton was recruited to Illinois as a defensive back, which somewhat surprised Czart.

“Just look at his film at running back,” Czart said. “He’s a good, good runner. I am a little surprised that the top schools passed on him as an offensive player. He’s very powerful and he’s tough. He has an outstanding work ethic and he’s a tremendous all-around person.”

If Hylton continues to pile up the yards this season, he my find himself lining up at running back at Illinois. Stranger things have happened.

Either way, Hylton just wants to play.

“I just like to play wherever they’ll need me to play,” said Hylton, a Summit Hill Junior High graduate. “I like new challenges. Illinois saw something in me that they want me to play defense. Whatever happens, happens. I’m a team player.”

He’s also an excellent student, boasting a 3.5 grade-point average. He scored a 24 on the ACT. Hylton plans on studying business or sports medicine at Illinois.

Once the season is over, Hylton will hit the weights and prepare for the track season. What he won’t be doing is playing basketball.

“I’m blessed,” he said. “My life could have gone in a different way if I hadn’t played football.”



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