Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill eager to shed character questions
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) For Tyreek Hill, each burst of speed and every impressive catch offer another chance to change the questions he faces.
The Kansas City Chiefs' rookie will never escape the sordid details of his past, but he's here now and ready to earn a spot on the roster.
Hill continues to impress on the field during the early portions of training camp, including a highlight-reel catch he made getting past NFL defensive rookie of the year Marcus Peters on Tuesday. The reasons for success on the field can't be ignored.
''He's fast,'' Peters said. ''But it's fun. That's the competition we need. That's that explosiveness we're going to need from him in the season.''
The Chiefs selected Hill in the fifth round of the draft. A year ago, Hill had pleaded guilty to abusing and strangling his girlfriend and was kicked off the Oklahoma State football team over the 2014 incident. He spent last season at West Alabama, where he juggled school and football with counseling sessions and other court-mandated service work. His probation isn't scheduled to end until 2018.
The Chiefs faced some backlash from fans over the pick. For his part, Hill insists interactions with fans so far have remained cordial.
''The fans have been great,'' Hill said. ''Just signing autographs.''
The Chiefs list him at wide receiver, and he wears No. 81 but he has experience running the ball and in the return game.
''(He's) a good a football player,'' Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. ''I'm not surprised by (what he does), but the guys that are going against him are surprised by it. Because you can see it. They think they have an angle, and then all of a sudden - bam - they don't. He's also got the ability to change speeds. He'll show you one speed and then all of a sudden he has another gear.''
Hill started his career at Garden City (Kan.) Community College before going on to Oklahoma State. While with the Cowboys, he amassed more than 1,800 total yards in his lone season. His 996 total return yards were second in Division I and included a 92-yard punt return vs. Oklahoma that eventually set up a monumental overtime win. Five days later, Hill found himself in jail.
Hill's contributions at West Alabama were more mundane, but the obvious speed, which helped him win a pair of medals running sprints in the 2012 World Junior Track and Field Championships, never went away.
Peters, a first-round pick who recorded eight picks and returned two for touchdowns last year, entered the league with his own questions about his character only to become an immediate star. He offered some simple advice for Hill.
''Stay humble; stay hungry,'' Peters said. ''Because when the lights come on, you get to have a lot more fun. He's a real energetic person, likes to dance and do all those things, so I just tell him to stay hungry and his time's going to come.''
On the play in Tuesday's practice, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw deep down the right sideline to find Hill a few steps behind Peters. Hill reeled in the catch and gave one excited fan a quick high-five in celebration.
Peters told Hill: ''Good job, rookie.''
The Chiefs' depth at wide receiver behind star Jeremy Maclin seems to be fluid entering the first preseason game. Frankie Hammond and Albert Wilson have a lot of experience, although Wilson missed practice Wednesday. In addition, the Chiefs added intriguing free agent veterans Mike Williams and Rod Streeter.
''I've always been told, `Act like you've been there before,''' Hill said, ''so it's just another moment in my life. Just make a play. When it's your turn, just make a play.''
The opportunity to just be a rookie in training camp doesn't seem lost on Hill at this point. He knows he needs to stay on track in his personal life and see if his talent can continue to shine beyond practice.
''To me, it still doesn't mean nothing,'' Hill said. ''I'm just like everybody else. I've got to get better each and every day. That's my biggest thing: just staying focused, staying in the playbook, listening to the vets and doing what the coaches tell me to do.''
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