Jets pawn future on fullback Hilliard

Lex Hilliard played for Tony Sparano on the Dolphins last season.

Somewhere on a highway in Montana, newly signed Jets fullback Lex Hilliard got a text message from his agent, telling him that the Jets were showing interest. Hilliard was in a pickup truck with a friend of his, heading off to the hardware store to buy some drywall for a remodeling project.

Hilliard, who grew up in Montana and played his college football at the University of Montana before spending three years in Miami and two games this season in New England, was surprised by the text. Still on his way to the hardware store, Hilliard received a call from the Jets a few minutes later, saying they wished to sign him. On Wednesday, Hilliard completed his first practice with his new team.

“I’ve been playing the Jets for the last four years and the Jets are a tough opponent to go against. I’m proud to be a part of that now,” Hilliard told Metro. “To have that name on my back, I’m excited about it. We’re going to keep this going; we’re going to find a way to make it work.”

The need to get Hilliard on the 53-man roster stems largely from John Conner’s questionable health. A knee injury sidelined him for the Jets’ Week 3 overtime win in Miami and he left midway through Sunday’s blowout loss to San Francisco with a hamstring injury, likely the result of overcompensating for his knee. In his third year with the Jets, the former fifth-round pick was supposed to be the Jets’ long-term answer at fullback but injuries and disappointing play has cast doubts on Conner’s future with the team.

Hilliard, who played for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano when he was the head coach of the Dolphins, is willing to take the risk of trying to supplant Conner as the Jets’ starting fullback.

“You never know, you come in here and do the best of your abilities and hopefully it turns into a long-term thing,” Hilliard said. “I come in, give it my best and hope that it works out well for both sides.”

He has a reputation as a hard worker, which is a major reason Sparano brought him into an offense that has lacked physicality in the ground game. He calls himself a “lunch pail” player who takes pride in doing hard work — whatever is needed to get the job done. Hilliard will never sell himself short in his quest to get better. Literally.

Nine months ago, Hilliard started his own pawn shop, his first ever business venture. The End of the Trail Trading Post in Kalispell, Mont. is owned by Hilliard, carrying on a family tradition. Growing up, Hilliard’s father owned his own pawn shop by the same name which he sold when Ike was 12 years old.

Now Hilliard is having a go at the family business again.

“It is a good way for people who may not have access to a line of credit to be able to get money or sell something,” Hilliard said. “But I let my employees determine the value and worth of something. I’m such a softy that if I heard a sob story, I’d likely overpay.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…


British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…


VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.


City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.


‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…


TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.


A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."


2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version


Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.


Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.


Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.


Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.


What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.


Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.


Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."