The New York Giants have a long history of bringing in at risk players who have had off the field issues and transforming them into key members of successful, winning teams. Players like Mario Manningham, Plaxico Burress, and Ahmad Bradshaw have all come with off the field baggage, and have all played important roles in one or more Super Bowl victories for Big Blue.
This season, General Manager Jerry Reese has taken on several players that, although they’ve had serious issues in the past, have potential to become assets in helping the Giants win another Super Bowl. Cornerback Jayron Hosley failed a drug test prior to the NFL Draft, and both safety Janzen Jackson and wide receiver Brandon Collins were dismissed from their college teams for various off the field incidents. However, safety Will Hill out of Florida has had to overcome more adversity that any of the players mentioned above.
Will Hill was a high school standout at St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey and was named 2007 Star-Ledger Offensive Player of the Year. He went to Florida as the top ranked high school safety recruit in the nation. At Florida, Hill became a stand-out safety for the Gators. He made 48 tackles and two interceptions during his freshman campaign, and became a key contributor to Florida’s 2008 BCS National Championship Game victory.
However, Hill’s football career began spiraling down hill in 2010 after a string of twitter posts on his account referenced the illegal use of drugs and prostitution. He was suspended for two games at Florida and came back to have a lack-luster junior campaign for the Gators. Despite his play during in 2010, Hill decided forgo his senior year at Florida to enter the 2011 NFL Draft. He was projected to be an early to mid-round draft pick. However, Hill raised serious questions about his character during the interview process and also did not surround himself with trustworthy, reliable individuals.
His character concerns and previous off the field issues prompted Hill to go undrafted through all 254 picks. To complicate matters further, Hill was arrested in June 2011 in Florida for driving on a suspended license. For the duration of the 2011 NFL season, Will Hill remained unsigned and on the open market.
However, this offseason, Hill has seemed intent on getting his football career off of life-support. He has been training with Atlanta based trainer Chip Smith, and Smith has praised hill for his hard work so far. In a recent statement to Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger, Smith had the following to say regarding Hill:
“The teams I talked to, to be honest with you, didn’t have much interest. I told them I’ve had a lot of bad boys of the NFL. He did everything I asked him, he did it with a cheerful attitude, he never said, ‘Woe is me. …?’ He said, ‘I made a bad decision. I shouldn’t have tweeted but I did and I’m paying the price for it.’?”
There is no doubt that Will Hill is a talented football player. He has good size and stands 6’1″ while weighing in at 207 lbs. Furthermore, Hill has been clocked at 4.46 in the forty yard dash. Perhaps his biggest endorsement came from former NFL defensive back Ray Buchanan, who helps take NFL hopefuls and morph them into capable prospects. In a workout last spring, Buchanan had rave reviews for Will Hill.
“He took off when he saw the quarterback’s shoulders turn, went to get a nasty out route from the wide receiver, picked it off with one hand, stayed in bounds and took it to the house. That let me know he was a freak. His hand-eye coordination was freakish. He has great hands and unbelievable ball skills. I looked at him and said he’s better than half the players in the NFL. I put my neck on that.”
But in the NFL, talent alone does not guarantee success. It also takes character, hard work, and dedication to become a successful player. Will Hill has yet to show those traits on a consistent basis. Furthermore, with safeties Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Tyler Sash all ahead of Hill on the depth chart, he is going to have a tough time making the 53-man roster during training camp. However, Hill recently talked about his opportunity with the Giants.
“I saw my name on the jersey and almost cried,” he said. “I just sat back, talked to my father and he was like, ‘Don’t waste it. Do what you need to do.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anybody, but it was a learning experience and that’s something I needed to do. I needed to calm down and sit down and that’s what I did.”
Will Hill seems to be making the most of his opportunity thus far.As long as he keeps saying and doing all the right things, he has the potential to become a productive NFL player. Here’s to hoping this story has a happy ending.
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