Think about this for a second.
How many high school athletes have started four straight years in boys basketball at the Class 5A level? How many have started for three years at quarterback?
Now, how many have done both of these things?
I’ve been around high school sports all my life and I can think of only one — Airline’s Hayden Hildebrand.
Hildebrand’s remarkable high school career came to a close Tuesday night at Airline. The Vikings’ finished a disappointing season with a 74-57 victory over Byrd.
Because of a knee injury suffered in football, Hildebrand played only half the season and was never 100 percent. Still, he was averaging 18.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists going into Tuesday’s finale.
While Hildebrand’s senior basketball season may not have turned out the way he wanted it, his career was anything but a disappointment.
A big part of three straight District 1-5A championship teams, he was named first-team All-District his freshman, junior and sophomore years.
Hildebrand finished his career with 1,688 points, which ranks seventh on the schools all-time scoring list.
Hildebrand also played a big role in the Vikings’ resurgence in football. He passed for 7,491 yards and 68 touchdowns the last three seasons. His freshman year he passed for 104 in a game of against Byrd. His 7,595 yardage total is a parish career record, surpassing the previous mark set by Haughton's Seth Holloway (7,543), whose last season was 2002.
Last season, Hildebrand threw for 2,995 yards, just 57 yards shy of the single-season parish record. He was part of an Airline team that won a share of the 1-5A title for the first time since 1998. He was named the Offensive MVP on The Press-Tribune’s All-Bossier Parish team.
Earlier this month, he signed with Central Arkansas, one of the top football programs in the Southland Conference.
Hildebrand’s accomplishments weren’t limited to the football field and basketball court. He was named to the Class 5A Academic All-State football team with a GPA of 3.8776. He should receive the same honor in basketball.
On Feb. 28, he will be one of two scholar-athletes from Bossier Parish honored at the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame North Louisiana chapter banquet at East Ridge Country Club. The other is Benton’s Matt Boggs.
Hildebrand would be the first to admit he hasn’t done all this by himself. There are his basketball and football teammates; his teachers; his family, including parents Bryan and Carla; and his many coaches, including Mike Greene and Bo Meeks in football, and Chris White in basketball.
It’s an age of specialization in sports, though it’s still not that unusual for high school athletes to play more than one. But to excel at two sports at the highest level the way Hildebrand has is rare indeed.
While the Hayden Hildebrand era is over at Airline, the Hildebrand era is not.
Hildebrand’s brother, Noah, is following in Hayden’s footsteps. An eighth-grader at Greenacres who played quarterback on the football team, Noah has helped Greenacres win district championships in football and basketball.
For both Noah and Hayden, there are new challenges ahead.
But one thing is for sure. Hayden will go down as one of the greatest high school athletes in the history of Bossier Parish.
Russell Hedges is sports editor of The Press-Tribune. Contact him at 747-7900 or rhedges@bossierpress. com