Tyreek Hill’s Journey to the NFL

His name is not Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott, but this rookie has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2016 NFL draft. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has really burst on to the scene this year with incredible speed and versatility.

Projected to go undrafted by many, it was a surprise that the Chiefs took Hill in the fifth round. His numbers at West Alabama, a NCAA Division II school, were not impressive. He is on probation for a domestic violence incident that lead to him being kicked out of Oklahoma State. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, he is not very big either.

Kansas City really took a gamble by drafting Hill and it has definitely paid off. Here is a look at Hill’s crazy road to the NFL.

High School

Hill competed at Coffee High School in Georgia and was actually more of a standout on the track than the football field. Hill won both the 100 and 200-meter dash at the 2012 Georgia 5A state meet.

Courtesy of ESPN

He also put up an incredible performance at the Golden South Classic in Orlando, Florida. He finished the 200 in 20.14 seconds, which was good for second all-time. To give perspective on how fast Hill was, that time would have been the fastest time in the NCAA that year. It also would have been good for sixth place in the 2012 London Olympics. He also finished the 100 in a blazing 10.19 seconds.

Hill was a beast on the track, but make no mistake, he was also a fantastic football player. He was not only fast, but also incredibly strong. He could run the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds and bench press 345 pounds. Hill only had competed in track for a couple years, but has played football from a young age. His skill on the track and football field caught the attention of a lot of big schools. 

Hill was receiving track scholarships from schools like LSU and Florida State. Georgia offered him a scholarship to run track and play football. He nearly chose Georgia’s offer, but his grades prevented him from doing so. He decided to sign with Garden City Community College in Kansas to play both football and run track.

College

Hill did football and track at Garden City. Hill got to show his versatility his sophomore year on the football field, rushing for 638 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 35 passes for 557 yards and six touchdowns. The production made him one of the top JUCO recruits for the next season. It seemed that almost every top school wanted him, including Alabama, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma and Texas.

Courtesy of USA Today

Hill ended up choosing to play at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ fast-pace offense and top-notch facilities drew Hill to the program. His head coach at Garden City, Matt Miller, also had family members who attended the university. Miller did not push Hill towards OSU, but told him to choose a program he felt comfortable in.

Hill had an impressive first year with the Cowboys. He immediately got started running track and set the school record for the 60 and 200-meter dashes. He also helped OSU win their first Big 12 indoor championship.

Hill also made an impact on the Cowboys football team. As a junior, Hill rushed for 534 yards and a touchdown while also catching 31 passes for 281 yards and another touchdown. Hill played a big part in the return game as well, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and one punt for a touchdown.

Oklahoma State finished the year 6-6 and ended the regular season with a thrilling overtime victory over rival No. 20 Oklahoma. Hill had a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown that tied the game with 45 seconds left and sent it to overtime. The Cowboys kicked a field goal to win 38-35. It was announced the next day that Hill and the Cowboys would be taking on Washington in the Cactus Bowl. Not a bad first season at Oklahoma State for Hill. However, everything was about to come crashing down for Hill.

Dismissed

About a week after the victory over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State announced Hill was dismissed from the football and track teams after he was arrested for domestic assault and battery.

An OSU press release stated: “Oklahoma State University does not tolerate domestic abuse or violence. Based on the evidence and the serious allegations that have been made, Head Football Coach Mike Gundy has announced that Tyreek Hill has been dismissed from the OSU football team. He also has been dismissed from the track team. The allegations are under investigation by Stillwater Police and by the OSU Office of Student Conduct. Those processes will proceed independently.”

Hill ended up pleading guilty to domestic abuse by strangulation. It was found that Hill got into a fight with his pregnant girlfriend and punched her in the stomach and choked her (the baby boy was born healthy). Hill ended up receiving three years of probation and was required to attend an anger-management course and a year-long batterer’s program.

A Second Chance

Hill still wanted to play football, but no one was willing to give him a chance. West Alabama, a NCAA Division II school, was willing to take a chance on Hill, but not right away. Head coach Brett Gilliland warmed up to the idea of taking Hill after speaking with people at Oklahoma State, Garden City, and one of his high school mentors. Ultimately, Gilliland was swayed by the plea requirement that Hill needed to remain either a full-time college student or be employed full-time. Otherwise, he would need to serve jail time.

Courtesy of Great American Sports Network

Hill completed his college football career at West Alabama in 2015 and put up some decent numbers. Hill rushed for 237 yards and a touchdown and also caught 27 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns.

Not a bad way to end a football career, but nothing impressive. Hill was only his team’s fourth leading rusher and the second highest receiver. He was his team’s leading return man, but you have to be able to do more than that to get drafted in the NFL. Not to mention Hill’s small size and the fact that West Alabama had not had an NFL draft pick since 1974. It seemed unlikely he would play in the NFL.

Hill was not invited to the NFL combine so his last chance to impress NFL scouts was at West Alabama’s pro day. Hill ran the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds, which would have tied Chris Johnson for the fastest time in NFL combine history.

Hill’s strength is definitely his speed. His ability to score long touchdowns and return kicks and punts were highlighted as his strengths in his NFL draft profile. His weaknesses were that he was not a very tough runner and went down really easily and danced around too much waiting for a hole to open up. Not to mention he had been kicked out of Oklahoma State for domestic violence and was on probation. Hill was projected to go undrafted, but his punt return ability and speed could potentially intrigue a team to invite him to camp.

NFL

The 2016 NFL draft began April 28 and to the surprise of everyone, the Kansas City Chiefs took Hill in the fifth round with the 165th pick. Not only was Hill’s talent a question mark, but also his past. The NFL has really cracked down on domestic violence incidents ever since Ray Rice had his incident in 2014. Not to mention back in 2012, Chiefs’ linebacker Javon Belcher committed a murder-suicide, something that was still fresh in the mind of Chiefs fans.

Courtesy of Kansas City Star

Andy Reid has also shown compassion to players like Hill in the past. Back in Philadelphia, Reid gave Michael Vick a chance after he served time in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. Vick was not disappointing on or off the field for the Eagles.

The Chiefs’ front office spent time with coaches from Oklahoma State and West Alabama as well as Hill’s family, friends, and even Hill’s prosecutor. After discussing it with everyone, the Chiefs determined Hill was on the right path and had been handling himself well. 

Hill has continued to show the Chiefs made the right decision by drafting him. Right now Hill has 56 catches for 547 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. He has also made an impact in the ground game, rushing for 252 yards and three touchdowns on just 21 carries. Hill also has a kick and punt return for a touchdown, putting him at the top of the team for total touchdowns with 11. His performance earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl this year as a return specialist.

With blazing speed and ability to make big plays, it is going to be exciting to see what Hill can do in the future. He has definitely made the Chiefs proud on and off the field. He has been going to counseling and says he wants to become a better person from doing so. He has learned from his past mistakes and is really making the most of his second chance at football. 

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