SAN ANTONIO - Kenny Hilliard wanted to listen. He wanted to learn. The Patterson, La., four-star running back and his uncle would sit back and watch highlight tapes, study them, so Hilliard could continue to develop his game.
When former LSU and New Orleans Saints standout Dalton Hilliard is your uncle, you listen. Hilliard, an LSU commit rated as the fourth-best running back and No. 27 nationally, wanted all the information he could get.
"He always said to stay focused, stay humble and to keep God first," said Hilliard, whose cousin, Ike Hilliard, also played in the NFL. "It's amazing just knowing my uncle played in the NFL and what he expects and what he's teaching me. I'm learning the NFL stuff already in high school. It's amazing having an uncle and a cousin that have played in the league and know what to expect and how to get there.
"I always have an ear to listen, to sit down and see what he's talking about. It's very important learning from him. It's important I heard what he has to say."
The 6-foot, 218-pound prospect picked LSU - where his uncle starred in the early- to mid-1980s - in December 2009. Many other programs tried to sway him away, but he has stuck with his commitment.
Hilliard put up tremendous numbers during his high school career at Patterson, where he rushed for 1,804 yards and 22 touchdowns in his senior year despite missing more than two games because of injury.
In his freshman season, Hilliard had 1,825 yards and 18 touchdowns. He followed that with back-to-back seasons of more than 2,000 yards rushing, with 2,512 yards and 32 scores in his junior year.
Now Hilliard is looking forward to bringing those talents to the SEC.
"That's where my heart is and it's close so my family can come to the games so I'm going to stick it out with LSU," Hilliard said. "It's amazing being in Death Valley. I know since my uncle has been playing that's where I wanted to go and I just knew I was a Tiger deep down in my heart just watching his old films.
"Just being in the stadium on a Saturday night the crowd is wild, the student section is great and it's just a nice atmosphere to play in," he said. "Seeing my uncle playing at LSU and knowing I'm there now, so now it's my turn to go out there and show what I can do."
One of the most important factors for Hilliard, third in the Louisiana state rankings behind fellow LSU pledges La'El Collins and Anthony Johnson, is that he was more than willing to listen to his uncle's advice.
Hilliard - like his uncle and cousin - has bigger plans. One day he wants to play in the NFL, so listening to a loved one who was already there made a lot of sense. Hilliard never considered anything else.
"Of course I was going to listen to him," Hilliard said. "He's been there. He knows what it takes to get to the league."