Taysom Hill has never been a conventional football player.
Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be built like a linebacker and run a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. They aren’t supposed to come back after four gruesome season-ending injuries with even more enthusiasm and fire each time. They aren’t supposed to be playing special teams and utility work in the NFL while being listed as a third-string passer.
“I obviously had a goal to play (in the NFL) and to make an impact, but I never expected to contribute the way that I have been,” Hill said. “At the end of the day, it was all about finding the right opportunity and the right fit, and I’ve been able to find that (in New Orleans).”
In 37 games over five years (2012-16) at BYU, Hill excelled as a gifted dual-threat quarterback. He threw for 6,929 yards and 43 touchdowns while adding 2,815 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. Hill’s 9,744 career yards of total offense rank fourth in BYU history, ahead of legends such as Steve Young and Jim McMahon.
“What makes BYU unique is playing for a team and a school that has a lot of pride in what they do,” Hill said. “As a player, that’s what you want and what it’s all about.”
While listed as the Saints’ third-string quarterback, Hill has magnified his role on the roster, returning kicks and serving as a punt gunner on special teams. The Pocatello, Idaho, native has also seen reps at receiver, tight end and an occasional passing or rushing attempt at quarterback. So far this season, the 28-year-old has two pass completions on trick plays, 157 rushing yards with a touchdown and 11 kick returns.
The way they use Taysom Hill in New Orleans is so amazing. #petcat
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) November 4, 2018
Taysom Hill started that play as a blocker and then leaked out to catch a pass for a 5-yard gain. Taysom Hill, by the way, is a quarterback.
— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) October 29, 2018
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 4, 2018
“It’s kind of a learning process, you know. And I think having this weapon now is really intriguing, because Taysom is so versatile, he can do so many things,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees told ESPN.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 29, 2018
Hill headlines a select group of current Cougar alumni in the NFL, including former teammates such as Kyle Van Noy (2010–13), Jamaal Williams (2012–16) and Fred Warner (2014–17).
“I don’t think being a BYU alum in the NFL is anything different than being in the business world, but it’s something that I take seriously,” Hill said. “I think that as people get to know you and realize that you played for BYU that there’s an expectation. It’s fun, and it creates a lot of great conversations with my teammates, and it’s been a good experience for me.”
Serving as the third-stringer to Saints starter Drew Brees, one of the most accomplished gunslingers in NFL history and the all-time career passing yards leader, Hill has had plenty of opportunities to learn from the legend.
“Drew is a very routine- and team-oriented guy,” Hill said. “I’ve had the opportunity to follow his routine, learn from him, watch film with him and just observe the way that he prepares for a football game, which has been the best learning experience I could have asked for.”
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum stepped in for Hill following an early injury in 2015 and then served as his backup during the 2016 campaign. Mangum said he learned a great deal from the veteran during their tenure as teammates.
“Taysom taught me about dealing with the off-the-field pressures that come with being a quarterback at BYU,” Mangum said. “He taught me the importance of not caring about what other people think. You’re always going to have doubters or people that don’t necessarily support you or believe in you, but you have to believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability.”
Mangum hasn’t been surprised with Hill’s impact for the Saints this season.
“I don’t think it surprises anyone who knows him,” Mangum said. “He’s obviously an unbelievable athlete, so it’s awesome to see how the Saints are using him, and it’s fun to watch him succeed. When I see him returning kicks or playing special teams and making tackles, it’s a testament to how athletic and versatile he is.”
Hill’s final season in Cougar blue in 2016 was also head coach Kalani Sitake’s first season on the job, an 8-4 campaign ending with a Poinsettia Bowl victory over Wyoming.
“Coach Sitake made football about us, and I really appreciated that,” Hill said. “I felt like he was genuine and that every decision he made was to help us as a team, and he was genuine in taking care of us.”
Hill remains a fan-favorite in Provo and for Cougar fans across the country. He is gaining momentum as one of the season’s best stories in the NFL as he ‘reps the Y’ for a wider national audience.
With Hill’s opportunities on the field expanding every week with the Saints, a strong Super Bowl contender, the future is bright. Hill reflected on his legacy and how he would like to be remembered by BYU fans.
“At the end of the day, my goal as a quarterback at BYU was to lead by example in the way that I prepared and played the game,” Hill said. “My hope is that people remember me as a guy who went and left everything out there on the field and competed as hard as he possibly could, game in and game out.”