- Posted: 6:26 PM, August 3, 2012
An All-American at St. Peter’s (NJ) Prep and standout at Florida, Hill had the talent to be a mid-round pick last year. But his 2010 suspension for violating Gator rules, a string of tweets about marijuana use and sex with hookers, and poor interviews with NFL teams left him undrafted in April. As far as who derailed a fast-tracked career, Hill knows exactly who’s responsible: he was.
“Me. Just thinking too highly of myself, and thinking “Oh, I’m at the top and nothing can happen to me, and I can do whatever I want.” And I paid for it,’’ said Hill, who 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds. “I did (messed it up). I went down to Florida and played with (Tim) Tebow and (Brandon) Spikes and everybody, was at the top and thought too much of myself. That knock-down was really what I needed.’’
After a lost season, unable to support his four young sons and show his skills, the Giants took a flier. They invited him to minicamp, and eventually gave him a minimum contract with no guaranteed money. And so far in training camp, he’s made several impressive plays, earning time with the top defense both as a safety and down low in the nickel – all while dishing out some punishment.
“I play with a little more oomph, because I had dark times. I know what’s on the other side and I don’t want to go back,’’ said Hill, adding of his big hits: “I didn’t play football in a year; I’ve got a lot built up in me. I need to hit somebody.
“Everybody’s out here fighting for a job, so it’s either do I want that job or not? It’s either kill or be killed, so I’m gonna be the killer.’’
Hill, who was raised in gritty East Orange – where almost a quarter of the populace lives below the poverty line, and nearly a third of those under 18, according to the 2010 census – went through dark times and came out with a checkered past.
ESPN, rivals.com and scout.com all ranked him as the nation’s top prep safety, the latter tabbing him the No. 2 player overall. But after playing extensively as a single-high safety at Florida and leaving a year early, he went undrafted.
Hill has twin 2-year-old sons, a one-year-old and a nine-month old, two of the kids with wife Leisa and two with other women. He got arrested in Florida last June for driving with a suspended license, and last September Leisa told Jacksonville police that Hill hit her, but no charges were filed and the investigation halted.
It’s a testament to his prodigious talent that Giants GM Jerry Reese still threw him a lifeline, and so far Hill has not only been drama-free, but performing well.
“You see a real quick, well-conditioned athlete right now. He’s definitely had a couple of days where he’s stood out and he stands out on (special) teams too,’’ said Tom Coughlin. “He’s played well. We look forward to seeing him play and competing in the preseason games, on special teams and defensively.’’
Nowhere near as much as Hill is looking forward to it.
“I have that mentality because I wasn’t drafted. … I have to prove myself to not only the coaches, but the players, that I belong here. That’s how I go out every day and attack everything full on,’’ said Hill, who needed a push from friend Lance Adams and guidance of ex-NFL DBs Sam Madison and Ray Buchanan to get to camp.
Now he’ll need to work harder than he ever has to stay with Big Blue.
“Will is a guy that we all see his athletic ability,’’ said safety coach Dave Merritt. “This kid has speed. He has quickness, he has burst and acceleration, and this young man has all the tools that you want as a defensive back. The thing that Will is going to have to learn is the playbook – the details of the details.’’
While many players use lunch to relax and unwind, Hill holes up in his room, studying the playbook at lunch and again until 9:30 p.m.
“Everybody come (to lunch) to relax. I’m in. I’m eating lunch in my playbook…(There are) a lot of (food) stains,’’ joked Hill, 22. “There’s a lot for me to come in and to learn. And also I think about my kids. I have four boys that I have to go out and provide for, so I always think about them before anything.
“People have been telling me that my whole life I just have to put myself to it, show everybody that I do have this (talent), and I know what to do with it.’’