Darrell Hill's path to the Rio Olympics started because Penn Wood High School needed a shot putter.

Coach Lenny Jordan's pitch to Hill was that he could come to the meets, throw a ball and hang out the rest of the day. Hill's friends were on the team, so it sounded like fun.

"I had no clue at all" what to do, Hill said. "This was something I literally just did because my friends were at the meet."

Next Thursday, Hill's winding path will place him in the Olympic shot put competition as he represents the United States in Rio de Janeiro.

Hill, who turns 23 the day before he competes, grew up playing football, basketball, and wrestling. Even as late as the fall of Hill's senior year at Penn Wood he planned on playing football in college. He had offers from a few Division II schools as well as a chance to walk on at Penn State and Temple.

But everything changed on Dec. 8, 2010. Hill threw the shot five feet farther than his previous personal best, and that gave him the longest high school throw in Pennsylvania and second-longest in the country.

"After that I wasn't sure if I was really that good or if I had one good meet," Hill said.

Over the next few weeks, he found out. Hill continued to rack up long throws, and college track coaches began calling more often as interest from football coaches dwindled. After he finished second in the high school state shot put championship in 2011, which sport to pursue in college became clear.

Hill orally committed to the Penn State track and field team, but there was "an issue with my paperwork," he said. So he spent his freshman year at the University of Houston. He said he enjoyed it, and he had success. But he transferred to Penn State when he straightened out his paperwork.

It was in Hill's junior year in State College that he realized he could continue his career on the national level. His throw of 67 feet, 6 inches at the Big Ten championships that year set another personal best and was the fifth-best throw in the country.

"You could see a switch was flipped in his brain," Penn State coach John Gondak said. " 'I'm one of the best in the country, and I'm going to approach every meet like that.' "

Following his junior year, Hill represented the United States at the North American Central American Caribbean championships and finished sixth at the U.S. championships. He came three centimeters short of a national championship his senior year.

After graduating from Penn State in 2015, Hill stayed in State College until March to train. It paid off.

At this year's U.S. Olympic trials, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Hill finished third and set another personal best of 70-11 3/4.

He repeatedly proved to himself he could step up.

"If I put in the work," Hill said, "I will be able to put forth my best performance when I need it most."

Hill's father, Ellis Hill, also made Olympic news recently when, working as an Uber driver, he explained to customer Liz Willock that he could not afford to travel to Rio to watch his son.

Touched by his story, Willock arranged a GoFundMe account that raised more than $7,500 to pay Hill's way to see his son compete.