Losing a big brother is the latest in a long line of emotional challenges for Taysom Hill. Tough circumstances in recent years have made Hill into a man of extreme patience, understanding and tested faith, if not storied perseverance.
Last Friday during BYU’s Pro Day in the indoor practice facility on campus, Hill was hanging around with former NFL players Chad Lewis and Jason Buck, smiling, chatting it up and taking it all in, saluting his teammates as they lifted, ran and jumped. Then he learned his big brother Dexter, six years his elder, passed away suddenly at home in Pocatello, Idaho.
Taysom Hill has spent the fall and winter recovering from a third major football injury that has sidetracked a promising football career, a fate that has robbed him time and time again.
News of Dexter’s death rocked Hill watchers across the country. Prayers went out to the Hill family, his beloved parents, Doug and Natalie, and to his siblings.
On Saturday a fan, Jeff Hannah, emailed me: “God bless Taysom. Sorry about the death of his brother. Is there anything else that could happen to such a good guy? Lucky there's treasure in heaven. Seems as though Job and Taysom have a lot in common.”
In Job 5:7 the biblical verse reads: “Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards.”
The Hill family has felt that fire.
Thursday morning, Taysom and his family will put Dexter to rest after funeral services in Pocatello. Dexter, a former Idaho all-state football player, who also starred at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and Dixie State College in St. George, died March 25. His death came three days after the death of another Pocatello athlete, Dexter Hill’s friend and former Dixie State player, Andy Hicks, who died suddenly in Guam.
Friends describe Dexter as a clone of Taysom, a kind-hearted, patient, sweet, competitive and extremely athletic leader and friend. He was a great supporter of his baby brother, one of the most athletic BYU quarterbacks the Cougars have ever known. Dexter and Taysom followed in the footsteps of older brother Jordan, a Pac-12 linebacker at Arizona State.
Video clips of Dexter Hill have cropped up on social media, showing an energetic, enthusiastic guy. One scene showed him as an 8- or 9-year-old wrestler pinning an opponent in 20 seconds.
BYU sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum said this week he has reached out to Taysom and expressed his sincere condolences and that his prayers are with him and his family.
Like Taysom, Mangum grew up with older brothers Parker and Madison setting the athletic tone in his life. “That’s devastating. I can’t imagine,” said Mangum. “I haven’t been through something like that but it is really tough. We are definitely keeping them in our prayers and wish the best for them.”
Retired Orem attorney Vic Gibb served with Taysom Hill as a senior missionary in Australia and he recognized traits in Hill that serve him as strengths needed in times like these.
“He’s one of the finest young leaders I’ve ever met,” said Gibb. “For those who think he is a great athlete, he is a better man. If I were to add someone to my family, I would choose him as a son. I have nothing but warm regards and best wishes and prayers for him and all of his family at this time.”
This untimely death comes as Taysom continues to battle back from almost legendary setbacks as an athlete.
He has undergone hundreds if not thousands of hours of rehabilitation after knee and foot injuries. The pain, disappointment, frustration and drudgery of all that time piled on after tremendous preparation and work to get on the field has made his efforts to rise again each time an extraordinary tale.
Hill would be the first to declare his impending comeback and his personal challenges are nothing compared to losing a big brother. On the scale of big things, this one lays heavy on one end.
Seeing Hill Friday at Pro Day, standing there with a maroon shirt, slacks and loafers, enjoying the conversation and anticipating a Saturday scrimmage where he would throw a few skeleton drill passes in front of fans for the first time since his injury in Lincoln last September was a great scene. To know that within hours, if not minutes, of seeing him there he’d get the news he’d lost one of his greatest heroes is sobering.
It is a memory that numbs the soul. That is how Hill’s Easter weekend began.
Somehow, knowing Taysom Hill in ways we do, the meaning of that Easter Sunday will resonate like no other.
The sparks fly upwards.