Jun 022014
 
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Will Hill, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Will Hill – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Will Hill is not a bad guy.

He’s never been charged with a murder, like a certain someone up in New England. He’s never mistreated a woman, like a certain quarterback in Pittsburgh. Will Hill has never harmed an animal, like a certain someone in New York.

He’s never been malicious, violent or barbarous. Will Hill simply smoked a joint, got caught, and suspended in back-to-back years. He’s gone for six games, not a season. So why cut him? Why let walk for free a player with immense talent, the potential to be one of the game’s best?

Because it’s not about the pot. It’s not about marijuana. It’s not because of first hand, second hand, or third hand smoke. It’s because Will Hill was told by his boss not to do something. Then he did it anyway.

Three times.

On Monday afternoon, the New York Giants released a statement through the team’s twitter account. It came across subtle, with a picture and link to a press release. A move that was once rumored and assumed for six weeks finally came to fruition. Will Hill, the hard-hitting troubled safety, was released. The team, which was the only one to give him a shot three years ago, had given up. Thrown in the towel on the talent-limitless Jersey City native.

Since his early years, “talent” was never an issue with the 24-year-old. Hill grew up in New Jersey and quickly earned fame as a triple threat at St. Peter’s Prep High School. Hill starred as the team’s returner, quarterback and safety. In his senior season, Hill ran for 682 yards, threw for 758, intercepted three passes, recorded 68 tackles and had 444 receiving yards.

The Star-Ledger named Hill its New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year and he was given a five-star recruit rating by Rivals.com. ESPN ranked him as the second overall football prospect and top athlete in the nation. Hill committed to Florida.

While Hill’s talent on the field was demonstrated to the nation, his life off it was not.

According to The Star-Ledger’s Conor Orr, while in high school, Hill would sleep at head coach Rich Hansen’s house the night before games. Hansen saw the talent that Hill had, knew the only thing that could stop him from reaching fame and glory were those in his life.

Growing up in Orange, New Jersey, Hill constantly found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. While Hill was a good kid, those in his life were anything but. Coaches, fellow teammates and advisers worked to keep Hill out of trouble during his high school days. But when the safety arrived at Florida, those voices were not there. Hill was on his own.

During his three years in Gainesville, Hill’s career was plagued with disappointment. He flashed potential, showed the game-breaking ability he once displayed on Friday nights in Jersey, but his off-the-field life was now as in the spotlight as his play.

Hill was suspended following his junior year after being caught with marijuana. He tweeted out messages with graphic sexual references, mentions of drug use and prostitutes. Hill claimed to have had his account hacked.

The safety fathered four children with three different women, got married then divorced. According to Ebenezer Samuel of The New York Daily News, he struggled with drugs and “pondered leaving the game.”

Despite the above, Hill declared for the NFL Draft, but performed poorly both during NFL Combine interviews and private workouts. The one that was once thought of as a sure-fire NFL player went undrafted and wound up with the Arizona Football League’s Arena Rattlers.

After that short stint, the team that played 18 miles from his high school school’s stadium gave him a call. Hill would work out for the New York Giants.

Hill showed up and appeared to have turned a corner, appeared to be more mature and ready to take his life into his own hands. He was told he’d be on a short leash and showed enough during a workout to be signed to the roster for training camp. Then on October 8, 2012, Hill’s off-the-field life caught up to him again.

The safety was suspended for Adderall, strike one, but the Giants stood by him. Hill played 12 games, registering 38 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was brought back for the following season, before swinging and missing at strike No. 2.

On July 20, 2013, the NFL announced that Hill will be suspended four more games, this time for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He openly stated he smoked marijuana in order to cope with some of the stresses of his off-the-field life.

“It’s from family members, everyone reaching their hand out and thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something,” Hill told John Breech of CBS Sports. “It was just a situation where I was visiting back to my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun on me then and wanted money. How do you deal with those situations? I really can’t so I dealt with it the best way I knew how.”

As was the case before, the Giants stood by Hill, but this time issued a warning.

“The Giants just told me that they had my back, they had my support, but another slip-up and that’s that,” Hill told The Star-Ledger.

Not even 12 months after uttering those words out of his mouth, Hill slipped again.

On May 30, 2014, the NFL suspended Hill for six games of the 2014 season for violating the policy and program for substance abuse. Hill reportedly told friends that he had not smoked marijuana, that the positive urine test was derived from second-hand smoke.

It doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t.

Anyone who has stumbled upon Hill’s Instagram account know the safety has put himself in less than ideal situations. Clubs, photos of him with liquor and females litter the social media account.

For someone down 0-2 in the bottom of the ninth, why start swinging at chase-me pitches out of the zone?

While no drug arrested was made, Hill was arrested on Dec. 20, 2013 on a warrant for outstanding child-support payments. The officer detected an odor of marijuana and found cigar shavings in the vehicle. The report stated “suggesting that marijuana was prepared and smoke in the vehicle.”

Why is Hill in the vehicle? Why are those shavings in the car? Despite this, the Giants stood by Hill. That was, until, their hands were forced.

Hill’s release from the Giants is not because he did, or didn’t, smoke marijuana. It’s not because Jerry Reese believes pot is bad, is illegal, or is a ‘gateway drug.’ It’s not because Tom Coughlin is too old fashioned or straight edge.

It’s because Hill was warned. He was warned over, and over, and over again, yet he still continued to put himself in these positions. Wrong place, wrong time? Sure. But when you know you are one step away from being cut from the only team that was willing to give you a shot, why are you around marijuana in the first place?

Whether Hill put the joint to his lips or not, it got in his system. You don’t fail a test by sitting in on a Friday night with close friends and not allowing any to light up. You don’t fail a test by going to a club, noticing marijuana, then leaving the location.

You don’t fail a drug test unless you put yourself in the situation to do so. The Giants gave Hill three strikes, and he went down on the first three pitches he saw.

One in 2012. One in 2013. One in 2014.

Will Hill is not a bad guy. He is not a murderer, child molester or animal abuser. Will Hill is a troubled child who has continually put himself in situations that could jeopardize his career. Will Hill is a talented safety who can’t follow the rules.

It doesn’t matter that Will Hill smoked pot. It matters that he was told not to do these things, and proceeded to do them anyway.

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Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

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