Dalton Hilliard is sticking with his father Larry’s story. He was named after the former New Orleans Saints star running back, and that’s that.
Hilliard’s mother Amalia, however, recalls another story.
“I was very pregnant and I was down to two names,” Amalia said. “I remember I was watching the movie `Road House.’ Patrick Swayze played this tough, no-nonsense guy who kicks butt.”
The character Swayze played is James Dalton, a smooth yet intimidating bouncer who wreaks of charm and swag.
“I chose Dalton because of that,” Amalia said.
It turns out Hilliard is a perfect blend of both versions.
He’s a Swiss Army knife. A five-tool player with the kind of versatility on which UCLA coach Jim Mora is capitalizing. Hilliard, a senior, came to UCLA as a running back, switched to safety, and now plays inside linebacker.
He’s more than embraced the move, he’s thrived playing important downs on defense whether the Bruins are in their nickel, dime or base package.
Hilliard can play virtually anywhere. He can blitz. He can drop into coverage, and he’s become a solid run defender.
Yes, he’s kicking butt.
“I know this term gets thrown around a lot, but he’s a football player,” UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said. “For a guy who has played his entire life in the secondary and offensively in the backfield, he’s done an amazing job picking it up.”