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Taysom Hill proving he’s more than just a Swiss Army knife

Former BYU star is ranked the top quarterback in the NFC South after three starts for New Orleans

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill works during game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Atlanta. Hill quarterbacked the Saints to a 21-16 win.
Danny Karnik, Associated Press

Taysom Hill quickly morphed into an NFL starter.

All he needed was a chance.

Then his DNA took over.

And it should be stated quickly, Hill is lucky he has Saints head coach Sean Payton pulling the strings behind the scenes.

This was all on display Sunday when Hill had a career-high 42-yard run and threw his first touchdown pass, the first of two on the day, in a win over Atlanta.

On the day, Hill completed 27 of 37 passes for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His pass rating was 107.0.

Hill is now 3-0 as a starter while filling in for a New Orleans legend.

He considers himself a starter. So does Payton.

Critics questioned New Orleans for paying him starter money last summer. Some fans questioned his abilities to be QB1, lead an offense, consistently pass the football, even hold a drink for Drew Brees on the field.

A novelty, some said. He’s the Saints’ Swiss Army knife, who can be a TE, WR, RB, QB, special teams tackler, said others, but nothing more.

Wrong.

Hill proved Sunday he is much more than an athletic freak, whose first inclination when things break down is to run for his life.

He has excelled at the highest level at the most complicated position in the game.

In Sunday’s win over the Falcons, Hill was poised, threw on time, made quick decisions, delivered strikes. He did fumble twice, once on a TD drive where he tried to throw while wrapped up. The other came on an end-around run when a corner took a swing and popped the ball out of his hands.

Hill told NBC Sports he’s worked very hard on his timing with his receivers. “I would say that my timing with the receivers has probably gotten better and is where I would say that I’ve seen the most improvement,” Hill said. “I felt like timing-wise with everybody was really good. I was really happy with our timing and our rhythm.”

Hill now leads the NFC South in QB rating at 97.2, ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.

So far, as the Saints’ starter, Hill has rushed 34 times for 176 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He has passed for 550 yards, two TDs, one interception on 54 of 76 (71%). As a placeholder for a superstar, he is undefeated and has his team in the playoffs.

Much of the credit for Hill’s development has to go to his head coach. A year ago, when Brees went down, he got Bridgewater to “manage” a 5-0 win streak.

For his part, Hill’s story is a lesson for everyone. Persevere, hold on to the passion of what you love. If you get hurt, get back up, never stop trying, never give up, don’t listen to critics and be the author of your own destiny.

He’s existed in a high-pressure sport at a position of immense scrutiny. He could have transferred when at BYU or just quit after multiple season-ending injuries. He could have bailed on his NFL dream at any point the past four years, yet he didn’t. That’s not who he is.

Hill’s answer to life is so simple: Be grateful. Do everything asked of you to just compete. Never quit. Don’t let others define you. Write your own story.

Hill told Nola.com, exactly what his lifelong mantra would require. “I don’t care as much as people might think about statistics and all that stuff. I care about winning football games. I know there have been a lot of conversations about getting your first touchdown. As long as we’re winning football games, I’m happy.”

The past three weeks since Brees got hurt and the door opened for Hill, he has worked and worked and worked as hard as he could.

And it showed.

What a novel thing to do.