Giants safety Will Hill making the most of his final chance

Giants safety Will Hill talks with reporters during Giants safety Will Hill talks with reporters during training camp. (Aug. 3, 2012) Photo Credit: Hans Pennink

advertisement | advertise on newsday

ALBANY -- On an NFL roster, each player has his number of years of experience in the league listed next to his name. Rookies get Rs; veterans get 10s or 12s or whatever the case may be.

Next to Will Hill's name on the Giants' roster is the number 1, but in his case, it doesn't stand for the seasons he's played. He wasn't in the NFL last year.

That 1 represents the number of strikes against him. And he knows that unlike baseball, for him, it's two strikes and you're out.

Hill, a high school star in New Jersey, was suspended by the University of Florida in 2010 for violating team rules. He entered the 2011 draft as a junior but was not selected. Then he wasn't signed. A string of bad situations -- questionable tweets, awkward interviews at the combine, concerns about his character -- left the safety, who many thought would be selected high in the 2011 draft, not even playing football.

"I couldn't even watch football last year," Hill said. "I couldn't stomach it. I watched nothing at all."

This year, the Giants took a chance on him. A very low-risk shot. They invited him to their rookie minicamp as a tryout, and when he was impressive enough in that arena, they signed him to a contract.

Now, as training camp unfolds, Hill is on the field playing with the first defensive unit, taking over some of the jobs that veteran Deon Grant used to have for the team. He's caught the eye of the coaches.

"We all see his athletic ability," safeties coach Dave Merritt said. "This kid has speed. He has quickness, he has burst and acceleration, and this young man has all the tools that you want as a defensive back."

Spending a year away from football might be contributing to Hill's growing reputation as one of the more physical players in this camp. "I play with just a little bit more oomph behind me because I had dark times," Hill said. "I know what's on the other side and I don't want to go back."

The other side is one misstep away, and not on the field. He knows that no matter how talented he is, if he is not capable of behaving, the Giants will let him go.

Thirty-one other teams already passed on him once. If the Giants can't straighten him out, good luck convincing other coaches and general managers to take a chance.

So far, Hill has been walking the line for the Giants. Coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese gave him "the talk" this past spring and have not been disappointed . . . on or off the field.

"Everybody's out here fighting for a job," Hill said of his play. "It's a kill-or-be- killed mentality. I'm going to be the killer."

His attitude nearly was a career-killer once. He says he's learned his lesson. If he has a 2 next to his name on a roster -- any roster -- next year, we'll know that he has.

Notes & quotes: LT Will Beatty (back) did not practice and Coughlin said he would have the injury looked at by the medical staff . . . LB Jacquian Williams (hip) did not practice either.

You also may be interested in: