Curtis Hillman will forever be in the record books as the first player to score a touchdown at Rip Hewes Stadium when he caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Hank Kennedy for Dothan High on Sept. 25, 1964, in the second quarter against Escambia.
“It was a perfect pass,” Hillman said during 2014 interview with the Dothan Eagle . “Right over the shoulder – boom! – a perfect pass. I mean, he laid it right in there and we were so happy.”
Hillman was a tremendous football player, but it was after retiring from Farley Nuclear Plant in his early 50s that he became somewhat of a legend hiking trails across the country.
His best friend of 60 years – Larry McKay – and many others knew him best as Wolfhound.
“We’d get on top of one of those mountains and he’d howl just like a wolf,” McKay said. “Anybody would tell you he was kind of quiet and shy, but he was a legend out there. He was so well known.”
Hillman passed away in Dothan on Tuesday after a short illness, but he certainly lived life to the fullest.
It was out on the trails, or floating down a winding river in a canoe, that Hillman found adventure along with peace.
“He liked the solitude,” McKay said. “When you get up in those mountains, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
McKay made some of the hikes with Hillman, who began the first of his many treks in 1998.
“I’m a Marine and I’ve done a lot of hard stuff,” McKay said. “Hiking up mountains is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The thing about it is he walked about 2 ½ miles an hour, whether it was going up, down or sideways.”
While McKay couldn’t join him on many of the hikes, he still often assisted.
“Every spring, he would go back to the start of the Appalachian Trail and hike up to Damascus, Va., to Trail Days,” McKay said. “It’s a big event where people from all over the world come.
“I was still working and I couldn’t take off for long periods of time. It takes sometimes five or six months to do these things.
“When I would have time off, we’d go drive for hundreds of miles for him to map it out. We’d go on the trails and find places to put food bags to pick up, because about every four or five days you needed more food.
“He was very detailed about it, because if you didn’t have the food dropped in the right place, you would run out of food a day or two before you got there.”
Hillman would keep contact with family members along the way.
“When he would get to a town he could call his wife,” McKay said. “He didn’t talk to me much on the trail unless he needed me to meet him somewhere. She helped get things to him to when he needed stuff.”
Hillman eventually got his daughter interested in making some hikes with him.
“One of his dreams was to have his daughter to hike with him,” McKay said. “She hiked with him one time and then came home.
“And this other time they were hiking – they were going to Damascus and I was going to go up there and pick them up and bring them home – and she decided she was going to hike the entire trail. She did the whole thing.
“That really, really made him proud.”
One of the trail hikes would lead to yet another hobby for Hillman.
“We were up hiking on the Appalachian Trail once on the Chattahoochee Valley part, and we found the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River – a little bitty hole in the ground,” McKay said. “He said, ‘I think I might canoe that.’
“He went to researching it and bought him a canoe and he canoed the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers.”
And then there was the time he biked across the country – though in two stages.
“I took him to St. Augustine and he left on July 5 and went over to Louisiana and I went over and picked him up,” McKay said. “And then he flew out to San Diego and rode the bicycle back.”
Hillman stopped hiking and canoeing about seven years ago.
“If he’d been healthy, he would still be doing it,” McKay said. “He was an athlete. One of the things that kept him alive in the hospital is they said he had a very, very strong heart. Way above average.”
The funeral s ervice for Hillman is 11 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Dothan.