All eyes on Taysom

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BYU football fans drool over the possibility of two more years with him at the helm. Journalists ask him how it feels to be a Heisman hopeful. Girls on campus want to know if he’s single.

But Taysom Hill takes all the admiration with a grain of salt.

Taysom Hill jumps with the ball in attempt to leap over two Boise State defenders.
Taysom Hill jumps with the ball in attempt to leap over two Boise State defenders.

“If I based how I felt or how I played on the fans or the media, it would be a constant roller coaster,” said the sophomore quarterback, a native of Pocatello, Idaho.

And it’s fitting. Six weeks ago, the Cougars were 1-2 and on the heels of their fourth straight loss to Utah. Hill completed just 18 of 48 passes and threw an interception in the contest. Ute fans mocked the performance. Cougar fans called for the backup. Reporters bombarded Hill with questions about his passing.

So it’s no wonder Hill is a little apprehensive about recent praise.

“That can change just as quickly as it changed before,” Hill said. “I just try to control the things I can control.”

Over the last month and a half, Hill’s offensive control has been stellar. Since its loss to Utah, BYU is averaging 38 points per game, and Hill has thrown 11 touchdown passes and run for four more. After just 10 full games as BYU’s quarterback, he’s already the best rushing quarterback the school has ever seen.

“The dude is built like a horse,” said Ross Apo, a junior wide receiver. “He works very hard.”

Perhaps no one is a bigger advocate for Hill than head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve ever coached,” Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall stood behind Hill after criticism and doubt were directed toward the quarterback’s early struggles this season.

“If anyone thinks (criticism of Hill) will have any influence, it’s not happening,” Mendenhall said after BYU’s win against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 28. “I think he’s exceptional, not just OK.”

Hill is uncommonly gritty for a quarterback. He has no qualms about leading and directing more experienced players on the team. He finishes runs, bowling over defenders and diving toward the first down marker. If there’s any issue Mendenhall has with his field general, it’s Hill’s aversion to avoiding hits.

“I’m on the sideline telling him to slide,” Mendenhall said. “And he’s running over guys.”

Given his confidence and aggressiveness on the field, Hill reacts modestly to recognition.

“I realize I couldn’t do anything without the guys around me,” Hill said.

Although expectations and projections for the BYU football team rest squarely on Hill’s shoulders, he originally committed to play at Stanford. But while Hill was on his mission in Sydney, Australia, the Stanford coaching staff forced him into a tough decision.

“Stanford wanted me to come home four or five months early from my mission,” Hill said. “And I didn’t want to do that.”

BYU had also shown interest in Hill, and midway through his mission, he decided to be a Cougar.

“I found out that BYU was where I needed to be,” he said. “And that has been confirmed ever since I got here.”

Taysom Hill scans over his options in the pocket against Boise State. Photo by Samantha Paskins.
Taysom Hill scans over his options in the pocket against Boise State. Photo by Samantha Paskins.

And it’s been so far, so good for Hill. This year’s turnaround has been monumental, and the sky’s the limit for BYU’s signal caller.

Despite what he’s already accomplished, fans still think he’s raw. Maybe he will go down as one of the BYU greats, with his jersey alongside Robbie Bosco’s, Steve Young’s, Ty Detmer’s or Jim McMahon’s.

For now, the 23-year-old dodges questions about playing in the pros or his legacy at BYU and focuses on diving toward one first down marker at a time:  “I just worry about becoming my best self.”

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