PROVO — Former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2017, was waived after four preseason games, then was claimed by the New Orleans Saints. A weight-room junkie, Hill became a QB anomaly by starring on special teams for the Saints.
Recently, Hill, the Cougars' No. 5 all-time leading rusher with 2,815 yards despite suffering three season-ending injuries, shared his thoughts on his first season in the NFL, his time at BYU, and his outlook for the future.
Here are some highlights from that interview.
DN: What did you learn from a year as an NFL player?
Hill: I think the big takeaway for me from my experience was having the opportunity to be surrounded by professionals in every sense of the word. I had an expectation going into the NFL, and then the experience that I had exceeded what I expected to see from people that played at that level. And so, it was a learning experience not only from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint, but just a routine standpoint. I would say those are the things that really stand out to me, that are going to benefit me. Not only in my football career, for however long that lasts — hopefully, it’s a long time — but in my professional career, in whatever it is I choose to do when my football career is over.
DN: You’ve always loved the weight room, but, getting paid to lift, has it made it more satisfying?
Hill: I’ve always been that type of guy, and so going to the NFL hasn’t changed my mindset that way, and my mindset has always been I’m going to do whatever it is I can to be as good as I can at whatever it is I’m doing. Whether that’s school, or a business, or football, I’m going to try to do my best at whatever it is. Being paid as a professional athlete didn’t change how hard I was working because I’m always going to do that, whether it’s the weight room or the film room.
DN: Did your workout routine change in the NFL?
Hill: My workout routine changed pretty dramatically in the NFL. Workout programs from college to the NFL are significantly different. At Green Bay, it was like, ‘Look, you guys are professional athletes. As your strength coach, my job and responsibility is to alleviate as much stress on your body as possible because you’re now going to be asked to play 16 regular-season games and four preseason games, while keeping you strong enough to get through that but also not adding any unnecessary stress to your body.’
DN: What was the reaction to being the only NFL QB playing on special teams?
New Orleans Saints special teams player Taysom Hill, left, celebrates with Justin Hardee (34) and Michael Mauti (56) after stuffing a return against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. | Bill Feig, Associated Press
Hill: It was all really positive. I have to admit, I’m happy to do whatever I can to add value and help this team win, but it wasn’t my idea to put me on special teams. That came from the coaches, and I actually think it came from Sean Payton directly. I walked into the facility on a Wednesday morning. The QBs we’re already in there, and I’m getting ready to walk into team meeting when one of the special teams coaches grabs me and says, 'Hey did you see the special teams depth chart?' And I obviously hadn’t paid any attention to what was going on with special teams since I got there. They slotted me to do some scout team kickoffs, some scout team punt returns, a few things like that. And everyone on the team was kind of laughing initially like, ‘Hey, bro, did you see the depth chart on special teams?’ And so that day at practice I went through some of the drills, I did it all, and the next day I found myself on the starting lineup on kickoff, on punt return, and then as the season progressed my role expanded. It was definitely out of the ordinary.
DN: What are your thoughts about Ty Detmer and the year you spent with him as BYU’s offensive coordinator?
Hill: My first year there, it was getting a new offense installed. I think the new staff there was trying to come together, figure out a new group of players, how they were going to best put together an offense suited for these players. The season was kind of a whirlwind because it happened quickly. As far as Ty goes, I had a positive experience with Ty. I really liked him as a person I think he’s a really good guy.
DN: Tanner Mangum is rehabbing a serious injury. What advice would you give him?
Hill: He’s surrounded by all the right people. Our support staff, training staff, team doctors were great. Any need that a player has or wants or thinks he wants, they have access. I would say he just needs to rely heavily on those people that are put in front of him to guide him through this process because it is tricky, and, as a football player, if you’re playing at that level, it’s because you have this mindset that you’re going to do everything you can to be as good as you can. Sometimes that works against you in rehab for an injury, and so it really is all about trust and it’s really about trusting your doctors, the training staff. If he relies on all those guys, he’s going to be just fine.
DN: How did you feel as a rookie NFL QB, and what are your goals for the future?
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill warms up before the first half of a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Atlanta. | David Goldman, Associated Press
Hill: The NFL is obviously a business, and it’s kind of hard right now to put together some really specific goals just because I don’t know what the roster is going to look like next year. Drew (Brees) and Chase (Daniel) are both free agents this year, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know that I’ll be back there for OTAs, and I’ll be back there for training camp, and there are two years left on my contract. The thing I’m most looking forward to, without knowing what’s going to happen, is what everybody expects — that Drew will be back here with New Orleans. But Chase I think is a bigger question mark. So, not knowing what’s going to happen next, I would say my mindset is I’m really looking forward to an offseason with New Orleans. You know I’d love to step into a backup role to Drew and play special teams. I don’t know how that dynamic would work, or if the coaches would be happy with that, that’s kind of out of my hands. I would say my focus going into the offseason is to go in and learn and become fully competent at the quarterback position going into this next season.
DN: After all you’ve gone through with comebacks, how do you feel?
Hill: I feel great. After our last preseason game, with Green Bay, I obviously didn’t play again until I started playing special teams (with the Saints) and my role in practice was limited. I felt like I had a good amount of time for my elbow to heal, and I was kind of limping through that January, February, April, March and May months through OTAs. I think the season’s set up for me to fully recover from that injury and work on the mental component of the game and really have the opportunity to learn from Drew. So I feel no restrictions.
DN: How did your wife adjust to NFL life?
Hill: Our transition was really positive. Moving to New Orleans with her and going through that process was awesome. I felt that it was a really neat and unique situation for Emily and I, and we loved it. I would say a lot of people don’t understand what goes into getting (to the NFL). I went back to Green Bay rookie minicamp by myself for a weekend there, came home for a few days, and then I went back there and joined them for OTAs. I was out there for six to eight weeks by myself. You know, lived out of a hotel, and my wife was here (in Utah), and she continued to work so if things didn’t go well for me in Green Bay and the NFL, then we were still OK financially. She kind of kept us going and allowed me the opportunity to pursue this goal of mine. Then I had six weeks off from June to July, went back out for training camp by myself and she stayed and did the same thing and supported me through that. Then, after I was released and claimed by the Saints, she came and joined me in New Orleans. The most difficult part of that was just being apart, and that was the hardest part of being in the NFL I would say. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without her. She supported me the entire way through it, and, because she was so supportive, I never had any internal conflict of feeling like I shouldn’t be doing this.
DN: There are a handful of LDS players in the NFL. How were you treated as a devout member of the faith?
Hill: I had many opportunities to explain what I believed in, whether it was with Green Bay or New Orleans. I was the butt of a lot of jokes, not about my faith, but about my age. My age is what it is because I chose to serve a mission, and … there was definitely a lot of conversations about that. Although there were a lot of jokes about it, I never felt like people were being disrespectful. I never felt that people were attacking me or my faith. I don’t know how much you know about Drew or Chase specifically, but both of those guys are faithful guys. They have a really strong faith and are Christians and read the Bible. It was really unique and a cool opportunity to be in the QB room with those guys.
DN: Do you keep in contact with Jamaal Williams?
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, right, talks with running back Jamaal Williams during practice in Provo Tuesday, March 1, 2016. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Hill: Yeah, we still talk. Obviously, it was easier to stay close and talk when we were both in Green Bay. We follow various accounts on social media about the NFL and they’re posting highlights and various things like that. Whenever I saw something promoting Jamaal, I would contact him or send it to him or send him a little congratulatory text. He would do the same to me, and so we kind of follow each other’s career. We had the chance to play each other when we went back to Green Bay, and so there are opportunities to stay connected that way, and we ended up playing that division this year. I actually got to break down a lot of their film as we’re getting ready to play Detroit or Chicago or Minnesota. Green Bay constantly came on, and I was able to watch Jamaal closely. I definitely stay in contact there. I’d love to see his success and I wish him only the best.
DN: With a year under your belt, what is your take on being a pro?
Hill: It’s a long year, as you transition from college football and then you transition to training for pro day, going to pro day, going to rookie training camp, staying for OTAs. Most rookies have to stay long and report sooner, and we have training camp all through August. The rookie schedule is a lot longer, and then you play four preseason games, which you’re often highlighted a lot more than the veterans. Then comes 16 regular-season games. As far as the NFL experience, it’s difficult, it’s a ton of fun, but it’s difficult.
DN: Where do you live now and what are you up to?
Hill: I’m back in Utah, working with Pelion Venture Partners in the offseason. That’s out of Salt Lake and Cottonwood Heights. I’m doing some stuff with them to continue to further my education in the business world.