Jeremy Hill finally dons purple and gold - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Jeremy Hill finally dons purple and gold

Source: The Daily Reveille Source: The Daily Reveille

By Chris Abshire

Don't call it a comeback. Jeremy Hill has been here for years.

While he still calls his native Baton Rouge home, the freshman running back is in a decidedly different place as he prepares for his first season with LSU.

Because, for Hill, the city and existence he knew for the first 18 years of his life scarcely resemble the space he has inhabited over the past 20 months.

Hill was a senior four-star prospect at Redemptorist in December 2010. The top programs in the country were calling, and a commitment to his hometown school awaited.

But the bruising 6-foot-2-inch running back found trouble in the unlikeliest place: school.

On Dec. 4, 2010, Hill was involved in an incident in a school bathroom, where he and another male student allegedly coerced a 14-year-old girl into oral sex.

The incident wasn't reported to police until Jan. 4, 2011, but Hill was arrested soon after. His football stardom, once a given, was now the least of his worries.

"Things happened pretty fast, and it was a whirlwind," Hill said, with a tinge of remorse. "Once the situation happened, I just had to let the legal process play out."

While it played out, Hill wasn't playing. He was suddenly a back without a huddle, a top prospect expelled from high school and facing a felony charge of oral sexual battery.

Hill said he considered enrolling in a prep school, but instead decided to remain low-key, finishing out his schooling at home and training on his own time.

While Hill was accustomed to the isolation of carrying a football with defenders bearing down and fans cheering him on, he wasn't used to the solitude of early morning runs on the levee and personal training sessions.

"I took all the attention, my teammates, the sport itself for granted when I look back on it," Hill said. "It can be easy as an athlete to not recognize the blessings of the game. I hope I didn't knowingly take my opportunities for granted, but [the arrest] humbled me."

La'el Collins, Hill's friend and teammate at Redemptorist and a sophomore offensive lineman, said Hill never stopped pestering him last fall about the LSU experience.

"He was always questioning me, wanting to know about how the team was and how I was doing," Collins said. "You could tell he was eager."

Eager might not be a strong enough word for Hill's mindset since pleading guilty to misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile in January, allowing him to enroll at LSU and finally join the program.

Despite being in a crowded Tiger backfield, Hill has already turned heads, gaining 56 yards on 10 carries in March's Spring Game and earning significant snaps in practice.

"I can't imagine we'd think about redshirting him," LSU coach Les Miles said. "He's big, strong and talented. He'll be ready."

Junior running back Michael Ford called Hill a "nifty, fast runner who can lower the boom," in a similar vein to sophomore Kenny Hilliard.

Those rave reviews reached a fever pitch after a drastic weight loss. Despite training last fall, Hill said he reached almost 260 pounds, but has since cut nearly 30 pounds, close to his anticipated playing weight of 225 pounds.

"I was playing catch-up with these guys in the spring," Hill said, pointing to his backfield comrades. "I went from sitting on the couch to going against Sam Montgomery and [Barkevious] Mingo. They're pretty fast, you know?"

For Hill, though, there's far more to catch up on than performance.

He wants the memories. LSU was the backdrop for his whole football career, a program he admittedly became so familiar with that it became old hat.

"I came to all the LSU recruiting visits and went to all the games for several years," he said. "Going to one became ‘just another home game.' I took that for granted, too."

Never again, Hill swears. Not after last fall's exile.

Hill never uses the word redemption when talking about his return ­— he chooses "surreal" instead, a decidedly mellow word to associate with a runner known for his brutal style.

Instead of hitting defenders, Hill can't wait to hit the Tiger Stadium tunnel, the chute that propels the Tigers in front of more than 92,000 adoring fans.

"That's the moment I'll realize my second chance is here," Hill said. "That whole year of doubt and frustration will be for something positive when I look up and the stadium's in front of me. I picture it being pretty surreal."


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