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North Shore Country Day's Joel Hylton (51) celebrates with his teammate Elias Butler (7) after a touchdown at North Shore Country Day in Winnetka, Ill. on Saturday, September 15, 2012. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Looking back, North Shore Country Day senior quarterback Elias Butler’s first impression of teammate Joel Hylton couldn’t have been farther from reality.
“I thought Joel was really soft-spoken and wasn’t really outgoing,” Butler said. “As the years went on I started to get to know him and he’s awesome and crazy. He’s a monster on the football field and my best bud off the field.”
The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Hylton has been a big reason the program has reached new heights.
Since moving from Pennsylvania his sophomore season, Hylton has been a fixture on North Shore Country Day’s offensive and defensive lines.
“He’s meant a lot to the program,” North Shore Country Day co-coach Fred Miller said. “He’s one of the leaders on the team and does a great job in the locker room with the guys. He makes sure the younger guys are doing what they should. Not to mention, his play on the field has been great.
“He really clogs up the middle for us and allows us to do some special things with our other players. It’s not a glory job he does, but without him, it would really make it tough on our defense.”
North Shore Country Day (7-1) beat Hope Academy 33-8 on Oct. 6 to clinch a playoff berth for the third season in a row — a feat never before accomplished — and followed it up with a 42-8 win over Longwood on Friday.
The Raiders, who close out the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at Mooseheart, were a combined 2-16 in the two seasons before Hylton arrived.
“I was at the start of this run and it means so much,” Hylton said. “All these guys were motivated after the tough seasons (the program) went through. I have a blast playing with all of them.”
Hylton is grateful to have Miller as a coach.
Miller played 13 seasons as an offensive tackle in the National Football League, including his final four with the Chicago Bears, and won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams in 1999.
“I’ve learned so much about the offensive line from the guy,” Hylton said. “Having him around means a lot. When you walk out on the field you feel like you have a bigger power with you because he played in the NFL and won a Super Bowl.”
Hylton relishes playing on both sides of the ball, but there is no question which position he favors.
“I’m a defensive lineman at heart,” Hylton said. “I have quick feet, usually people say I have pretty strong arms, so my club moves can be pretty powerful. I like to bull rush and just blow right up the line and cause as much havoc as I possibly can.”
Despite drawing interest from a number of Division I colleges, Hylton has only received an offer from South Dakota State.
“I’m hoping to go D-I,” Hylton said. “I’m hoping to get some more calls coming in soon and after the season I will get some more looks.”
Miller has no doubt Hylton will have success at the next level and possibly beyond.
“He definitely has the potential to go and play D-I ball,” Miller said. “He’s a guy with size and speed and you just can’t say enough good things about him. It’s going to be interesting to see how he does as his career progresses and hopefully we’ll see him on Sundays (in the NFL) one day.”