Taysom Hill prepping for big final act with BYU football

Nati Harnik
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill scores a touchdown during the first half of BYU’s game against Nebraska in 2015. (AP Photo)

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill knows a thing or two about setbacks.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old signal caller is entering his fifth season in Provo after suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of the 2015 season against Nebraska.

Hill scampered to the end zone and stopped his momentum too quickly, suffering a Lisfranc injury.

His junior season also ended prematurely in 2014 after breaking his leg while scrambling against Utah State.

Since arriving at BYU in 2012, Hill has played just one full season. But that doesn’t stop the hype — from media and fans alike.

Hill was recently named to the Maxwell Award watchlist. The Maxwell Award is presented each season to the player judged to be the best in the nation by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters and the Maxwell Football Club. Last season’s winner was Alabama’s Derrick Henry and the 2014 award went to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

But Hill isn’t concerned with awards or statistics. He’s playing for a more personal cause.

Hill’s brother Dexter passed away this spring.

“I look up to my brother so much,” Hill said of his late brother. “A lot of my competitiveness and motivation to play college football and excel in football came from him. I had this struggle of ‘What do I do to make sure my brother is still part of everything that I do?’ As I was driving up to his funeral, it hit me. I’m going to wear his number.”

Hill, nearly synonymous with the No. 4 in Provo, will switch his jersey to No. 7 for his final season.

Now all Hill needs to do is get back on the field.

He made it clear at BYU football’s media day in June that he was done talking and ready for some action. He opened his session with the media by preemptively answering the questions he gets most often.

He loves working with former Heisman-winner Ty Detmer.

His relationship with sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum is great.

He’s not worried about fitting into a pro-style offense.

And he has no physical limitations in regards to his foot injury. A story even circulated that he dunked a basketball – twice – for some Cougar fans at one of BYU’s FanFest events.

“Someone told him to dunk a basketball and he did it,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “So it’s the old, ‘Hey if someone told you to jump off a bridge’ type of deal. It was a good moment for Taysom.”

Sitake added that it was “nice” to see him dunk, but that he and the rest of the coaching staff will have to “teach him to slide and step out of bounds once in a while.”

Still, Hill is hesitant to abandon his running game. Despite the injuries, no one can deny Hill’s electrifying ability to get outside the pocket and make plays. He’s rushed for 2,212 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry throughout his career — second to only Luke Staley — and has rushed for 90 or more yards in a game 11 times.

Taysom Hill stiff arms a Virginia defender in 2014. Hill was named to the Maxwell Award watchlist to open 2016. (Ari Davis)
Taysom Hill stiff arms a Virginia defender in 2014. Hill was named to the Maxwell Award watchlist to open 2016. (Ari Davis)

Hill summed it up when he said he will “do what it takes to win the football game” before worrying about staying healthy.

He also called himself a “guinea pig” of Nike’s research and development team. Nike’s best and brightest are using Hill’s foot to build him a custom shoe to help him compete at the level he’s accustomed to.

But before he can put that shoe to the test on the field, he has to secure the starting job.

All signs currently point to Hill being under center when BYU’s offense takes the field against Arizona in Week 1. He said he expected his role on the team to be “like its always been” and added that was the reason he returned to BYU.

Still, he’s facing tough competition in Mangum.

Mangum set BYU freshman records with 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and led the Cougars to their highest win total since 2011. He also led the offense through spring practice as Hill was still hampered by his Lisfranc injury.

Mangum was adamant that the two were good friends and that it wasn’t a “Team Taysom (versus) Team Tanner” situation.

“Competition brings out the best of everyone,” Mangum said at media day. “He and I push each other knowing every play you’ve got to bring your best effort. It’s a healthy competition. It’s not divisive, it’s not negative.”

Mangum added that he doesn’t “worry about” who ultimately will start, saying that he “trusts the coaches” to “decide what’s best” for the team.

Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer has his work cut out for him selecting a starter, but he jokes it’s a good problem to have.

Detmer squashed the rumors that the Cougars may used a dual-quarterback system at media day.

“If we believe one of them is the guy, he’s going to get every opportunity to play and grow in the offense,” Detmer said.

Detmer and Sitake both said the starter will be named before the season opener, but didn’t commit to a timetable.

The Cougars travel to University of Phoenix Stadium to take on the Arizona Wildcats on Sep. 3. The game will kickoff at 8:30 p.m. on FoxSports 1.

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