The Beckwiths know exactly what to do when Gage Hills ’07 enters the Yankee Doodle, their family-run restaurant.
In the morning, they begin by pouring him a cup of orange juice and then follow up with, “Two on English, Gage?” As usual, they next start frying his breakfast order, two bacon egg and cheese sandwiches on English muffins. And in the afternoon, they grill hamburgers and a pig in a blanket, a hot dog wrapped in cheese and bacon, for the friendly and familiar regular.
When he leaves, he puts the meal on his tab and says goodbye to the cook, the son of the previous cook during Hills’ father’s Yale and Doodle days.
Even though he has a Yale meal plan, Hills will likely return three more times that week for “the best food on campus.”
But perhaps that’s what Hills is all about — consistency.
As a forward on the varsity soccer team, Hills has played in every game since his freshman year at Yale. This is an impressive feat considering that it requires not only skill, but also a constantly healthy body and a high level of fitness in order for an athlete to repeatedly perform at such a competitive level.
And Hills does not simply perform. His assistant coach for the past three years, Zach Samol, who is now the Georgetown men’s soccer coach, praised his athletic ability and unrelenting work ethic.
“He’s always been one of the fittest guys on the team since day one,” Samol said. “He doesn’t take things for granted, and he works for it.”
Even if his body is not at 100 percent, the forward presses forward. Lately, he noticed that one of his toes was swollen, but Hills seems unfazed.
“It might be broken or something, I don’t know,” Hills said. “Nothing a little adrenaline can’t help.”
Samol described Hills as very much a “hounding” forward. With or without the ball, he creates problems for the defense with the combination of his fitness, his pace and his work ethic. Thus far in his career as a Bulldog, the player wearing Number 7 has racked up 14 goals and 8 assists.
Teammate and roommate Jake Miller ’07 put it simply.
“It’d be a pain in the ass to play against him, because he never gets tired,” Miller said.
This tenacity and talent earned Hills second team All-Ivy honors for the 2005 season. He was also the Ivy League Player of the Week for the week of November 12, 2005, the week after the Bulldogs clinched the Ivy League title with a game-winning goal by Hills. An especially remarkable act given that Samol said finishing is one of his few weaker abilities.
But Number 7 remains forever humble.
“It’s nice recognition, but it doesn’t really mean anything,” Hills said, speaking of his awards. “I mean it doesn’t affect how the team does in the end, which is the important thing.”
Even away from his team, Hills maintains his consistency. An important aspect of the forward’s life is his family. Hailing from northern California, Hills spends much of the year away from his parents. But this distance does not stop Mr. Hills from flying out to see his son play and even relive a bit of his own bright college years, a pleasure which once extended to attending a post-game party with Gage and his teammates.
Conveniently, Hills’ younger sister, Mignon, attends Trinity College, just 45 minutes from the Yale campus. She often watches his games, and sometimes brings a cheering section of roommates and friends to support Gage and his team.
“We’ve always been really close,” Mignon said. “It’s pretty nice to both be in Connecticut.”
Aside from soccer and family, Hills has always had a strong interest in computer science. He will graduate as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major, and has been known to spend up to eight hours straight working on a problem set. But he enjoys this type of work, and often pursues it outside the classroom.
Hills spent one summer installing 150 rooftops with Muir Beach LAN systems, an Internet connection that his father started for their neighborhood. Another summer, he worked for Canesta, a startup company in Sunnyvale, California writing software, an ideal career choice for the Yalie.
He also enjoys building robots, and recently created one that plays soccer.
“We always make fun of him, because he’s such a nerd about it,” Mignon said.
Those close to him note that he is very happy and very talented in these pursuits, but they still enjoy teasing him.
Along with Hills’ interest in science and engineering comes a long-lived love of rock climbing. His favorite movie is a story of rock climbing survival, Touching the Void. When home, he climbs in gyms and at Lake Tahoe with best friend, Bingo McKenzie. The two friends are so close that they enjoy talking in acronyms and have declared a Facebook relationship.
Whether it’s playing soccer or discussing his favorite pursuits, Hills brings an honest approach to his life. As he prepares to complete his final season and final year at Yale, the always genuine Hills reflected on the coming change.
“I’ve been playing [competitive] soccer my whole life, and in a month and a half it’s going to be gone,” he said. “So, I just try to go all out every game.”