Chucky Mullins Winner Ka’Darian Hill and his Mom, Arneta Williams: Examples of Faith, Perseverance and Love
OXFORD, Miss. — If one could feel love through a phone conversation, it surely was felt when Ole Miss defensive lineman Ka’Darian (K.D.) Hill called his mom, Arneta Williams, last month to tell her he had won The Chucky Mullins Award.
The video of that moment, captured by Ole Miss football, is one none of us will forget.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) August 31, 2022
The award is presented annually to an Ole Miss upperclassman defensive player that embodies the spirit of Mullins – courage, leadership, perseverance and determination.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Arneta to talk about her beloved son who has achieved so much, both on and off the football field.
In our conversation, the love and pride she has for her son are evident from the first moment she utters the name Ka’Darian. Supporting him is important to Arneta because they have been through so much together. “I tell him, ‘Mom is one hundred percent there with you,’” she says.
Growing up in Alabama
Ka’Darian and Arneta both grew up on Highway 82 in Union Springs, Alabama, not far from Eufaula, where Arneta now resides and where Ka’Darian attended school. However, Union Springs is where Ka’Darian calls home — so much that he has a tattoo of the Hwy. 82 sign.
“Ka’Darian was all boy,” Arneta recalls of her son growing up. “He was a good kid who just loved being busy and involved in sports. That was a good thing because staying busy you stay out of trouble.”
Hill definitely stayed busy. He played football from peewee up through high school. He also played basketball and baseball in middle school. Then in high school, he also threw the shot put on the track team in addition to playing football.
Arneta was a single parent and Ka’Darian was an only child, and the two have a special bond that transcends the miles that separate them.
As a young child, Hill suffered from seizures five to six times a week. He would have breakthrough seizures as well. “It’s never easy to see your child going through that,” Arneta explained.
“It hasn’t always been easy being a single parent. Ka’Darian and I have been through a lot of trials and tribulations. We don’t like to think back on that, but continue on and praise God for what He’s brought us through because it took faith to get through it.”
KD Hill’s mother, Arneta Williams
Ka’Darian’s grandfather, Myron Williams, played a key role in the young boy’s life, serving as a father figure and role model until he passed away from pancreatic cancer when Hill was ten years old. Up until then, Williams and his grandson spent a great deal of time together.
“Part of the time Ka’Darian spent with my dad, he (Myron) would show him how to do things around the house that men do,” Arneta said.
Hill missed having his grandfather around to see all he accomplished throughout the years. “To not have his grandfather there, it was difficult,” Arneta notes. “My dad loved football. He (Ka’Darian) and my dad would always talk about football. Ka’Darian took that and let it fuel him.”
Importance of education
Education is something Arneta taught her son to value. When he decided to play sports, she told him, “Look, you have to do well in the classroom. In order to play football, you have to do well in class to get to continue to play because they’re not going to have you on their team if you don’t make the grades.”
He took her words to heart as Hill has always pushed himself in the classroom. That drive for academic achievement paid off in May of 2022 when Ka’Darian graduated from Ole Miss with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science.
A Man of God
When Arneta describes her son, she will tell you about the importance of faith in his life.
“First and foremost, he is a man of God, and he enjoys talking about God and his faith. He enjoys inspiring and motivating others and helping others in any way he can because that is something I instilled in him throughout the years.”
Arneta Williams on her son, Ka’Darian (KD) Hill
Arneta has instilled in Ka’Darian the attributes of a servant’s heart as he is active in numerous charitable activities and organizations that promote faith and lead by example.
One of those activities involves handing out food to those in need and is a lesson taught to Ka’Darian by Arneta at a young age. “It’s something I started when he was young,” she recalled. “We didn’t have much money, but I always wanted to help the homeless. So, we started doing care packages for them. It wasn’t much, but it was something I wanted to do with Ka’Darian and my nephew to show you could give back and help others.”
Recruiting and the impact of the Ole Miss FCA program
Interestingly, one of the things that drew both Ka’Darian and Arneta to Ole Miss is the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) program. When going through recruiting, they both agreed that was a huge plus and a significant item on their checklist of things to look for in a school, along with education and the school’s environment.
“We went to other schools and they didn’t talk much about that (FCA), but when we came to Ole Miss, they talked about it. It was one of the things that stood out. All the other schools probably had that program, but they didn’t talk about it during the recruiting process.”
Arneta Williams on the importance of FCA
Throughout the recruiting process, Arneta and Ka’Darian placed on a checklist the most important things they wanted to consider.
“The main thing and the most important thing was the environment my child would be in,” Arneta recalls. “You know, if the staff changes, would they still care about your child…You want to know your child is going to be taken care of when they are away from home. They (staff) can’t babysit them, but you want to know your child will be ok.”
Arneta advises parents entering the recruiting process to trust the process and remember it is the child who will be attending the school — not mom and dad. Some parents want their child to attend a school just because the parent likes the school, but it is the child who will be there day in and day out.
Of course, parents have a role in helping their child choose a program to play for, but it’s important to let your child choose the school they feel is the best fit.
“The kid is the one who is going to be going to the school for four to five years,” Arneta advises. “If they (child) pick the school they feel like going to, you know you all need to agree because you don’t want your child going somewhere the environment is bad or they aren’t going to learn in the classroom. But other than that, if the child feels ‘this is where I want to be, this is what I like,’ and you have done the checklist of education, environment, and all, then yes, let them go there because that child is going to stay there because they are happy.”
Making — and keeping — a commitment
When choosing a football program, Arneta made sure Ka’Darian understood the gravity of the decision he was about to make and that committing to a football program was just that — a commitment.
“My question to him before he made his decision was, ‘Son, now keep in mind the coaches may change, the staff may change. It may not be the same staff there that it was when you committed. Are you still wanting to go to this school?’” Arneta recalls. “He said, ‘Yes.’”
Arneta went on to relay what she told Hill when he made his decision to attend Ole Miss and how that has worked out.
“I said, ‘These coaches have families just like we have family. So, they have to do what’s best for their family. So, when they leave, you need to make sure you’re not wanting to leave behind them. Make sure it’s somewhere you want to stick with.’ He has. He’s been there. He’s graduated.”
Knowing Ka’Darian and Arneta had that discussion years ago makes it even more remarkable he received The Chucky Mullins Courage Award because one now understands the thought and consideration that went into his choice of Ole Miss football — and all the changes that occurred at Ole Miss following Hill’s commitment on June 5, 2017.
On July 20, 2017, head coach Hugh Freeze resigned. But Hill remained pledged to the Rebels and enrolled in January, 2018. Then, in December 2019, following Hill’s redshirt freshman season, head coach Matt Luke departed Ole Miss, meaning yet another new coach would take over in Oxford. Lane Kiffin was hired in December, 2019. And in 2022, Ka’Darian earned the Chucky Mullins Award.
Arneta spoke of how it felt to learn from Ka’Darian that he won the coveted honor of wearing jersey No. 38 in remembrance of Mullins.
“It was an emotional time. I was so proud of him. That was something he always wanted to do once he committed to the school. He wanted to be the one to win The Chucky Mullins Award. It was a goal he set….Ka’Darian is a very determined young man. When he sets his mind on doing something, he works hard at it and tries to accomplish that goal…It was emotional.”
Arneta would have loved to be there and give her son a hug when Hill won the most prestigious award an Ole Miss player can earn. She laughed a little as she says, “The first thing I said was, ‘When do I need to come? Do I need to come right now?’ He said, ‘No, Mama.’”
She tries to attend as many games as possible. “The one thing I try to do is support him in all he does because it’s important for a kid to have that support system,” Arneta says. When she cannot attend a game, Arneta and Ka’Darian text or call each other.
There isn’t a particular game or rivalry she looks forward to. “Every game is important to me,” Arneta tells us, “That’s how it has pretty much been, even all throughout high school. I tried to attend every single game he had. It was hard when he went off to college with the traveling and all of that. So, that’s why I say every game is important to me.”
Senior Night and a Bright Future
The Egg Bowl will be played November 24, 2022, and it will also serve as Ole Miss Senior Night, too. Ka’Darian Hill will walk across the field at Vaught-Hemingway to his mother, Arneta, who will be waiting with a framed jersey.
“Awesome,” “emotional,” and “surreal” are words Arneta uses to describe how she knows she will feel when Ka’Darian walks across the field that night. “It will just be emotional after all this time of seeing him work so hard. He puts in a lot of work. That is one thing I can say, he and all the others (players) work hard out there,” she says.
Arneta also spoke to us about the next chapter of life after Ole Miss football.
“Ka’Darian’s goal is to play in the NFL. If it’s the Lord’s will, if that’s what God has in store for him, that’s what will happen.”
Arneta Williams on HIll’s future after Ole Miss football
Arneta says she and Ka’Darian both live life with an attitude of, “Next man up. You do what you’ve got to do. If you have to step up, you just step up.” She is grateful to Rebel fans for being such a wonderful fan base. “I thank them,” Arneta says, “and I know Ka’Darian does as well.”
Thank you, Ka’Darian, for choosing to be an Ole Miss Rebel. Thank you, Arneta, for being such a wonderful and supportive mom. Watching Ka’Darian grow as a player and a person has been a joy for so many, and Rebel fans everywhere appreciate his commitment to making the world a better place by leading by example with a heart for the well-being of others.
Rebels everywhere will be cheering for Ka’Darian throughout the remainder of the season and in years to come. Let’s raise a loud ‘Hotty Toddy’ to KD Hill, this year’s Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner and all-around amazing person!
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Donna Sprabery is a former teacher, graduation coach, and academic coach for boys basketball. She graduated from the University of West Alabama with a major in business education and from Arkansas State University with a MA in Educational Leadership. A native of Meridian, MS, Donna enjoys traveling, gardening, writing, volunteer work, and cheering on the Rebels.