In the first preseason game against the Jaguars, Hill—listed at a rock-solid 6'1", 207 pounds—finished second on the team with five tackles. He displayed his raw prowess in coverage and proved stout against the run.
Once a top prospect out of St. Peters Prep in Jersey City, NJ, Hill committed to Florida over dozens of other schools. As a Gator, he started all three seasons and won a national title.
His career started to spiral once the Gators suspended him for a violation of team rules. His personal Twitter account was fraught with vulgar references to sex, prostitutes and drugs.
He declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season in 2011 and was projected to be a middle-round selection. But his skills on the field were clouded by his troubles off the field.
He has four children from three women. Also, he did not interview well at the scouting combine.
All 32 teams passed on his talents.
Upon reflection, the 22-year-old only has himself to blame.
According to ESPN.com, Will Hill told the AP, “Me. Me,” when asked what was the reason for his football struggles. “Just thinking too highly of myself and thinking, ‘Oh, I am at the top again, nothing can happen to me and I can do whatever I want.’ And I paid for it.”
In his year off, he rededicated himself to the game and worked arduously in the hopes that an NFL team would call.
GM Jerry Reese saw a changed man and gave Hill a non-guaranteed contract, but Hill viewed this as his chance for redemption.
Hill claimed to The Star-Ledger, “Yeah, I play with just a little bit more oomph because I had dark times. I know what’s on the other side and I don’t want to go back.”
Thus far in training camp, he has raised many eyebrows.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell stated to ESPN New York:
I’m very impressed with Will Hill. He’s 30 minutes early for the meetings. When I go into the meeting room, he’s always in there studying. He’s a very athletic young man. This is his second chance so to speak. He is being the ultimate pro by the way he is preparing for his opportunity.
On the field, Hill has a chance to play significant time immediately, after starting cornerback Terrell Thomas suffered another ACL injury.
In addition, Hill is expected to compete for the third safety spot in Fewell’s unique three-safety defense, where Deon Grant played the past two seasons. He possesses the versatility to cover slot receivers and the size, speed and strength to impact the running game. Sometimes he even practices with the linebackers.
His main competition is Tyler Sash, who is serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said, according to ESPN.com, “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.”
After enduring a rapid fall from grace, Will Hill is making his return to prominence.
Except this time, he won’t take anything for granted.