Packers: QB Taysom Hill eager to battle for roster spot after injury-riddled college career at BYU
GREEN BAY — Having had to return his team-issued iPad and with the coaches confiscating his spiral-bound notebook from the rookie orientation camp, Taysom Hill left Green Bay with only what he’d committed to memory from his limited glimpse at the Green Bay Packers’ playbook.
“It’s all up here,” the undrafted rookie free agent quarterback said with a smile.
Keeping all that proprietary information is standard operating procedure in the NFL at this time of year, and Hill will have more time with the playbook once full-squad organized team activity practices kick off later this month. But after an injury-riddled college career at BYU — not to mention several scheme changes during his time with the Cougars — Hill has gotten plenty of work on the mental side of the game over the years.
And that high football IQ should come in handy as he makes a bid for one of the roster spots behind Aaron Rodgers, since he’s going to be far behind No. 2 quarterback Brett Hundley and No. 3 Joe Callahan when the OTAs start.
“Everyone that I’ve talked to that’s entered the NFL from college having played quarterback, they’ve always talked about the importance of knowing the playbook and understanding the playbook,” Hill explained before heading back to Provo, Utah, for the rookies’ week off following the post-draft orientation camp. “So, I want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I can get, and I think my mindset going into next week will be making sure that I know the playbook to the best of my ability. I know there are a lot of intricacies that I’m going to have to figure out, but I feel like if I know what’s going on, I’ll have a better opportunity to be successful.
“I’ve had three different offensive coordinators at BYU, so I’ve had the opportunity to learn three different offenses and I feel like I picked them up really well. But there wasn’t as much put on the quarterback in those offenses as there is here, so that’s going to be new. But I’m excited for the challenge.”
The biggest challenge throughout Hill’s college career, though, was physical — as in staying healthy, having suffered season-ending injuries four times in a five-year span.
As a true freshman at BYU in 2012, he played in six games, winning both his starts against Hawaii and Utah State before hyperextending his knee on a late hit against the Aggies and suffering a torn hamstring tendon.
His best — and healthiest — season came in 2013, when he threw for 2,923 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore. Then, viewed as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate as a junior, his promising season ended with a broken left leg, again suffered in an October game against Utah State.
A Lisfranc foot injury in the season opener ended his 2015 after two quarters of football, and while he was granted a medical redshirt and returned last year for a fifth season, an elbow injury in the regular-season finale — again against Utah State — forced him to miss his final college game, the Poinsettia Bowl.
“He plays the game hard. That was always the risk, every year, with him,” BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer — a former backup to Brett Favre in Green Bay — said late last season. “He doesn’t know any other way to play, and that’s what you want in a guy — no matter the situation, the score, he’s going to play to win the game. It was hard to watch, that we’d come this far and have that happen right at the end and not be able to finish of the season in the bowl game. I feel for him.”
Asked how he views his college career, Hill replied, “As frustrating as it was going from starting and playing such an intricate part in the team to being injured and rehab and all that stuff, I think the thing that was the most frustrating was my offseasons weren’t spent becoming a better quarterback. They were spent trying to get healthy, trying to make sure I was ready for spring (or) for fall camp.
“I try not to allow myself to think about the what-ifs.”
All those injuries kept Hill from being drafted, but his impressive arm strength, good size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and athleticism — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and showed excellent quickness with a 7.03-second 3-cone drill — made him an appealing free agent. Once the Packers showed interest, Hill said, coming to Green Bay and learning alongside Rodgers was a no-brainer.
Hill is set to turn 27 in August — he initially committed to Stanford coming out of high school in Idaho, but then went on a two-year Mormon mission to Australia — and has his degree in business finance. Married since 2014, his wife, Emily, is the sister of ex-NFL linebacker David Nixon and understands the odds are against her husband, but she supports his NFL dream.
Hill and Minnesota-Duluth’s Drew Bauer, who was in as a tryout player, were the only two quarterbacks at last weekend’s rookie camp, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy came away impressed with Hill.
“Definitely, he belongs,” McCarthy said. “That’s really (what you’re looking for) when you’re watching these guys for the first time in live action.”
Now, Hill just wants to be part of the action for as long as possible.
“Going into this, I had the injury history, so I didn’t know how teams were going to view me. So I just wanted to prove that I was healthy, prove that I could still run well, throw well, and do all those things,” Hill said. “And, I just wanted an opportunity. And that’s what I’ve got here.”