Keanu Hill is just a sophomore at BYU, but he has proven to be more than ready for the Big 12.
Hill grew up catching footballs in Bedford, Texas — in the heart of the former Southwest Conference that later transitioned into today’s Big 12. He also had the good fortune of being tutored by two masters of the trade — Lloyd Hill (father) and Roy Williams (uncle).
Both men caught so many passes in college that their respective Big 12 schools, Texas Tech and Texas, dedicated space for them in their Halls of Fame and the Detroit Lions selected Williams with the seventh overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft.
Needless to say, when Hill, now a 6-foot-4 frequent target of BYU’s Jaren Hall, calls home, he gets an earful of advice, whether he wants it or not — especially from Dad.
“I get a lot of feedback and it’s usually nothing good. It’s always about the mess-ups before anything,” Keanu said with a laugh. “Like after this last game, I called him and said, ‘Hey Dad!’ and I didn’t even get a ‘Hi Son’ or anything like that. He just said, ‘What happened on those two drops?’”
Hill did have a pair of drops against Utah Tech, but he also finished with a team-high six receptions for 137 yards and three second-quarter touchdowns to fuel a 52-26 victory. For the season, Hill has 35 receptions for 570 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s gonna keep me on my toes,” Hill said. “He’s not going to let me chill for even a little bit. That’s what I love about my dad.”
Before injuries cut short his football career, Lloyd Hill caught 189 passes for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns at Texas Tech. Lloyd’s younger brother, Roy Williams, took his game to Texas, where he caught 241 passes for a school-record 3,866 yards and 36 touchdowns. Williams also caught 44 NFL touchdowns for Detroit, Dallas and Chicago.
“(Uncle Roy) is younger and was faster than my Pops so he tries to tell me to get my speed up,” Hill said of his decorated uncle. “I try to talk to him every week.”
Big 12 homecoming
BYU expects to see its first Big 12 football schedule next Thursday (Dec. 1) and Hill will be scanning it for one team in particular — Texas Tech.
“I can’t wait to see them in the future,” he said. “I already know when I go back home, me and my dad are going to be going back and forth. He’s going to be talking about his mess. I’m going to be talking about my mess. It’s gonna be a family classic. I can’t wait.”
The Cougars and Red Raiders have faced each other one time — Oct. 18, 1940, in a game Texas Tech won 21-20.
Keanu will also be watching for the potential date with Texas, where his uncle made a name for himself. BYU’s history with the Longhorns is much more recent. The Cougars lead the all-time series 4-1, including back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.
No matter when or where BYU tackles the Texas schools, Hill knows that the legends who came before him will be cheering for him — while wearing blue.
“Of course they are going to wear their BYU shirts,” he said. “They are going to support me in any way they can. Even if they went to Texas Tech or Texas, they are going to support the family.”
Roller coaster season
BYU’s up-and-down regular season wraps up Saturday night at Stanford (9 p.m. MST, FS1) where the Cougars can win their seventh game. BYU has already qualified for a postseason bowl appearance.
After defeating No. 9 Baylor 26-20 in double-overtime on Sept. 10 and climbing to No. 12 in the polls, the last thing Hill and the Cougars expected was a winless October. But, four straight defeats provided the sophomore with a secondary education to coincide with his classes.
“I feel like every ‘L’ is not a loss, it is a lesson to be learned,” he said. “Every game we have lost is a lesson. So, every time as we come back to practice I look at what I can do better to fix it, what I can do to help this team. Our whole team is that way. That’s one of things I love about this team.”
Hill is a big fan of ‘The Griddy.” It’s a short celebratory dance he learned from NFL stars Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase on YouTube. When his time wasn’t occupied by practice or school, it was spent on the popular move, with hopes of one day showing it off at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Much to the temporary delight of the crowd, that moment came Sept. 24 in the third quarter against Wyoming.
Hall threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Hill and without hesitation, the premeditated performance began.
“When I was doing the Griddy, it was nothing but joy and excitement and I was happy about the touchdown,” he said. “But when I saw the flag, my excitement went away. I thought, ‘Awe, I know I’m going to get chewed out over this one.’”
Head coach Kalani Sitake and receivers coach Fesi Sitake were waiting for him on the sideline. To make matters worse, Hill’s 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was followed up by a penalty on Jake Oldroyd for sending the kickoff out of bounds.
The two penalties gave Wyoming the ball at the 50-yard line and the Cowboys scored four plays later to pull within 28-17. Suddenly the Griddy wasn’t so cool. Fortunately for Hill redemption was just around the corner.
Hall and Hill connected on a 68-yard touchdown pass with 5:31 to play. This time, the much-wiser sophomore skipped the Griddy and ran off to celebrate with his team.
“I wasn’t going to do it that time,” he said, while shaking his head. “I learned my lesson.”
For the second straight year, BYU (6-5) will spend Thanksgiving weekend in Pac-12 country. The Cougars beat USC in Los Angeles last season 35-31 and will seek their sixth win in seven games against the Pac-12 Saturday at Stanford (3-8).
“We have to keep the energy up and be physical and not take this team lightly,” Hill said. “They beat Notre Dame and we didn’t. It’s gonna be a fight.”
More on Keanu Hill
You can see Dave McCann’s interview with Keanu Hill on Saturday at 7 p.m. on “BYU Sports Nation GameDay” on BYUtv.
One thing is for certain, there will be some phone calls made after the game, with Keanu’s most loyal critics, Lloyd and Uncle Roy, watching from home in Texas. The overlooked and under-recruited star from Bedford surprised both of them by choosing to play at BYU, but it’s a decision no one regrets.
“I’m grateful to be here to showcase my talent at a Division I school,” Hill said. “It’s all just a blessing — my coaches, the family, God, everything. It’s a blessing to be here.”
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.