"He’s done a lot of good things to this point, had a good spring and summer," Belichick said of the former Cincinnati Bengal. “He certainly adapted quickly."
So quickly that it ultimately made veteran Mike Gillislee, who had opened 2017 as the team’s No. 1 running back, expendable.
“He’s a smart guy and he has experience in this league, so he understands defenses and run reads and things like that. He’s done a good job in all the areas we’ve asked him to work in -- running the ball, passing game, special teams,” Belichick said of Hill.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Hill will fill the Patriots’ power role alongside projected No. 1 option Rex Burkhead, “passing back” James White and first-round draft choice Sony Michel. Spend time chatting with the 25-year-old Hill about his “football journey” and it’s clear how appreciative he is of the opportunity after signing a one-year deal with the Patriots on March 17.
When he first started playing football: “Third grade, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I had wanted to play the year before but I was too young. I kind of knew from Day 1, as one of the bigger kids in my grade, this might be a real thing. I tell people all the time, ‘This is the first job I’ve ever had.’ My friends would be cutting grass or doing other things every summer, and I was going to camps, training, lifting weights. This is all I’ve ever known and I feel blessed and privileged to be here.”
First position: “It was always running back. It’s never changed.”
Favorite players growing up: “Reggie Bush. He went to the Saints and was right up the road, so I got to watch him my whole childhood. I remember a couple years ago, we got to play against him when he was in Buffalo, and I shook his hand after the game. I had watched him my whole life and being on the same field with him, it was meaningful to me.”
Role models in his life: “My mom [Lisa], for everything she’s done to raise me and bring me here, to put me in this situation with the sacrifices she’s made for me to follow my dream in football. I remember making 10-hour trips to go to camps in Georgia, and her just putting that first.”
Top memories at Redemptionist High School, where he rushed for 2,260 yards as a senior: “It’s all my friends, playing all the same sports together. People say all the time, ‘You’re never going to get this back,' and the older you get the more you miss that time. I still speak to many of those friends to this day.”
Enrolling at LSU: “My mom went there, and it’s right up the road. My cousin, Marcus Randall, played quarterback there. So it was kind of one of those childhood dreams. It was an amazing experience.”
Top memory at LSU: “It would probably be playing South Carolina and I scored the game-winning touchdown. The stadium erupted. Just crazy.”
Second-round pick of the Bengals in 2014: “Surprised. I thought it was the last place I’d be going. They had a couple running backs who had success -- BenJarvus [Green-Ellis] was there and Gio [Bernard] had an amazing rookie year after taking him in the second round the year before. I wasn’t thinking they would go back-to-back second-round running backs. When I got the call, it was like ‘Wow!’”
Why he signed with the Patriots this offseason: “Just the opportunity. Obviously, nothing was guaranteed, but I had faith in myself that I would come here and put myself in the best position possible. And just the success they’ve had here.”
What he loves about football: “It’s a therapy in a sense, because when I’m out on the field, there is no other thing that matters at that time. I get to put all my energy, effort, emotions into one thing for that three-hour window. I enjoy that therapeutic aspect of it.”
Summing up his football journey: “I would say it’s the biggest privilege I’ve ever had in my life. Just everything I’ve learned, everything I’ve experienced, all the emotions, unless you’ve played there is no other way to simulate that. There’s just nothing like it.”