Arizona receiver making most of 'Hill Mary' catch
Amid four defenders, he caught a 47-yard Hail Mary - quickly dubbed the ''Hill Mary'' - from quarterback Anu Solomon to beat Cal 49-45 on Sept. 20.
Now he'd like to do something to top it.
''I hear about it every day,'' the senior said. ''I have to do something to kill the Hill Mary, or else I'm just going to be known as that forever. I'm not trying to be known off one thing. I'm trying to do something crazy so I can get that cleared.''
With that one notable exception, Hill's season has been modest after returning from an ACL tear that wiped out his 2013 season.
In 2012, the son of NFL player David Hill was one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hill was Arizona's primary focus in a shallow receiving corps, often getting mismatches as a big slot receiver.
Now he's part of a deep group of receivers, asked to play outside and in an H-back/tight end kind of role. He'll get to show off his skills again when No. 17 Arizona (7-2 overall, 4-2 Pac-12, No. 14 CFP) hosts Washington (6-4, 2-4) on Saturday.
''My competitive side would always like to see the numbers, but it's a little different when you're put in the situation like I've been,'' Hill said. ''I've had to play a little bit of tight end for the team and work on my blocking. It's funny because I'm starting to talk to the O-line a little bit more, be friends with them a little bit more. I like to go into their meeting rooms and stuff like that now.
''But it's easier to put stats aside with how we've improved and how well we've done this season.''
After his breakout 2012 sophomore season, Hill figured he'd be in the NFL now, leaving after his junior year. But he suffered a torn left ACL late in 2013 spring practice and was still easing into camp this August.
He said he used the rehab time to get stronger in the upper body, helping him become a more physical blocker - the kind of scouts will notice as they look beyond the stats.
Hill could always ask his dad for advice about blocking, too. David Hill played 12 seasons in the NFL (1976-87) as a tight end with the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams. And Austin's uncle, Jim Hill, was an NFL defensive back for seven seasons before becoming a sportscaster in Los Angeles.
''I'm very hard on myself, so I would say the 2014 me is a lot different, in good and bad ways, than the 2012 me,'' Hill said. ''I don't think I've really come into my own yet as an efficient rout -runner like I was in 2012, just because it's a different position.
''I think I'm making progress. I'm really proud of the team and proud of myself for how I've improved this season.''
Hill is not known as a blazer, but he went 92 yards for a touchdown in the season opener, stiff-arming a UNLV defender after a short catch along the sideline and outracing everyone into the end zone. One of his most spectacular plays came in the 2012 season opener, with a horizontal layout for a catch in the end zone against Toledo.
Scouts will find a well-rounded receiver after the season, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. Hill is rated as a top 100 prospect by NFLDraftScout.com.
''He has great ball skills,'' Rodriguez said. ''He knows football, so anything they ask him from a scheme standpoint, he can handle. And I think they will see on film, he has a great feel for the game, too.''