Almost a year ago to the day, Arizona receiver Austin Hill tore his ACL in his left knee during a spring football practice.
The injury was a shock to the Wildcats’ 2012 leading receiver at first.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Hill said of his knee injury. “The trainers had told me it was an ACL [tear]. … I was kind of doing my own thing, saying, ‘No, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t tear my ACL.’”
However, two days later Hill said he had come to accept the situation and was ready to make sure he was the best receiver he could be. But first, he needed to do it from the sidelines.
“It gave me a coach’s perspective,” Hill said.
Until his knee was healthy enough, Hill was limited to watching his coaches instruct and his team practice. From his new perspective, Hill said he was able to grasp a better understanding of what his coaches had been yelling at him for. He also said he realized how right they were. It didn’t take long for Hill to become another coach yelling at his teammates.
“Everything [receivers] coach [Tony] Dews was saying was becoming true,” Hill said. “‘Oh, he’s not sticking this route, oh, he’s not doing this on this route.’ I got to see everything I was doing wrong too.”
Hill added he thinks he has since become a smarter receiver.
Following the injury, the then-junior was eligible to leave for the 2014 NFL Draft. The thought, however, never crossed his mind, and from the day he accepted his fate to the day he announced he was returning to Tucson, the now soon-to-be redshirt senior said he was committed to helping the Wildcats.
One of the teammates he has reached out to help is injured running back Jared Baker.
Baker, a redshirt junior who is unable to speak to the media while his injury persists, didn’t see much game action playing behind All-American Ka’Deem Carey and senior running back Daniel Jenkins. But on a typical kick return versus ASU on Nov. 30, Baker tore his ACL and was done for the season, and done for any spring football practice.
Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday after practice that Baker hasn’t participated in any drills this spring, but thats because the injury happened in November Baker is expected to be healthy by the fall, if not the summer.
And with Carey leaving for the NFL and Jenkins having exhausted his eligibility, this fall is the first time Baker has a legitimate chance to start.
“Guys work out so hard in the summer it’s not the end of the world,” Rodriguez said of Baker’s missing spring practice. “He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got at the position.”
The Wildcats’ co-offensive coordinator, Rod Smith, echoed those statements.
“He’s a monster in the weight room,” Smith said.
As for Hill, he’s stepped in and become a mentor for Baker.
Hill said he talks to Baker and does all he can to make sure Baker stays positive.
“It’s awesome being able to know what to say to them,” Hill said. “I’m really proud of him. He’s really mentally fought through it.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella