HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Fun is a word Arizona wide receiver Austin Hill uses to describe his experiences as a college football player.
Unique could also be used to describe it. Hill comes from football genes. His father, David, played 12 years in the NFL and used to block for Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson when the two were teammates with the Los Angeles Rams. Hill wears No. 29 because of Dickerson. Hill’s uncle, legendary Los Angeles sportscaster Jim, is a former defensive back for the Chargers, Packers and Browns.
"It’s definitely fun and it’s a good source of information to have people who have been in your shoes already even if it was the old school days," Hill said. "It’s definitely an awesome experience to have."
Added Jim with a laugh: "The Manning family has nothing on us. They got nothing on the Hill family, I’m telling you. It’s a lot of fun."
Having fun, laughing, joking with and at the expense of one another is a part of what makes the story of the Hills so special.
Hill is often reminded about how physical the game was when his father and uncle played.
"I told him ‘you don’t have to worry about getting hit when you go across that middle these days,’ " David said. "Back in the day you didn’t even have to catch the ball. If you were running in front of a linebacker, a linebacker could take a shot at you and knock you off your route and hit you in the head. That’s a new thing but that’s the game that they play now and, to be honest with you, I think it helps."
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If Jim had to defend a receiver like his nephew during his playing days he acknowledges he would have done so "with a lot of help" but would have been as physical as possible against him.
"There would be a time where he would catch eight, 10 passes for 100 yards, a couple of touchdowns but at some point in the game his head, the ball and my elbow would meet and it would be lights out," Jim said.
Hill hears it constantly and brushes it off.
"I know back in the day it was a little bit more rough in the league, a little less rules so you were able to cheap shot and stuff like that but my uncle, he wouldn’t be able to handle me," Hill said. "It wouldn’t even matter."
The Arizona wideout acknowledges, however, he wouldn’t have gotten to the spot he’s in without the tutelage of his father and uncle.
The lessons passed down have been invaluable. He credits his father for teaching him all he knows about the game growing up.
Hill has taking to those teachings and is now considered one of the top wide receivers in the country. Heading into the 2014 season, he’s a top 10 prospect at wide receiver for next year’s NFL Draft.
"Austin’s pretty level-headed," David said. "That’s what I like about him. He’s probably more level headed than me and Jim were when we were playing."
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He’s garnered plenty of attention this offseason despite not playing a down in 2013.
Hill suffered a torn ACL in the spring of 2013, causing him to miss all of last season.
The injury was felt throughout the family.
"(It was) scary because you never know how anybody’s going to recover from a knee injury," Jim said.
Surgery to repair Hill’s knee was performed by Dr. Clarence Shields at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. With rehab now in the rearview, the family is confident the former Eastvale Roosevelt star can return to the form he exhibited when he had 81 receptions for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 as a sophomore.
Hill, like his family, is confident he can have a high level of success in 2014. He is also grateful for the support he received from his family on his comeback trail.
"I don’t think I would have gotten through the injury if it wasn’t for my family, if it wasn’t for my uncle, and everyone having my back and the U of A," Hill said. "They definitely helped a lot."