Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill was presented the key to the city of his hometown, Columbus, Mississippi, on Tuesday.
Hill, 22, received the honor for taking a stand in regards to the Mississippi state flag, which featured the Confederate emblem for more than 100 years. Hill, one of the top returning players in the SEC, tweeted on June 22 that Mississippi either changes the flag or he would not “be representing the state anymore.”
The NCAA and SEC followed by calling for the flag to be changed with the NCAA announcing it would no longer host championships in the state if it continued to fly that flag. With debate over the flag raging throughout the state, college coaches from Mississippi’s eight public universities — including Mississippi State’s Mike Leach and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin — convened at the state legislature on June 25 to call for the flag to be changed.
Before the month of June ended and only six days after Hill’s tweet, the state legislature voted to remove the flag with a new flag to be voted on in November.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said Tuesday that Hill took “a heroic stand in the face of adversity,” and noted how many “negative comments” he received for his tweet.
Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen was in attendance for the ceremony and said he believes Hill was a “spark that started something many people in this state fought for.”
"I think Kylin would be the first to tell you it's a team effort. Kylin is not defined by one tweet, but he's somebody who's not just a special member of the Mississippi State family, but is somebody who showed courage and there's no question we're awfully proud of him,” Cohen said.
Hill said it felt “unreal” to receive such a prestigious honor from his hometown.
"Everybody who knows me knows I claim Columbus to the fullest. The good, the bad, Columbus is what I am, I was born and raised here. When I retire from football, I'm still going to be from Columbus,” Hill said, per the Dispatch.
Hill rushed for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. He bypassed the NFL draft to return to Mississippi State for his senior season.
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