Chiefs' Tyreek Hill more mature, still improving ahead of second season
Tyreek Hill is improving himself on and off the field.
Jeremy Maclin is a big reason why.
The second-year Chiefs receiver told Omnisport Monday evening that Maclin taught him “how to be a pro off the field” and it’s important to be “more than a football player.” Hill said Maclin became like a brother during their one season together in Kansas City and helped the 23-year-old with a checkered past understand the importance of giving back to the community and taking care of one’s family.
“He helped me mature in a lot of ways,” Hill said of Maclin. “I can tell it. My family can tell it. This organization can tell it. I’m growing every day as a young man.”
That's why the Chiefs' surprising release of Maclin hit Hill particularly hard.
“Jeremy was more than a teammate to me," Hill said. "He’s more like a brother. I grew on him and he grew on me. We hung out a lot. I learned from him and he kind of learned from me — learned how to get faster.
“I was shocked. I was hurt, but at the same time, I know it’s football and it’s business. My whole thing, and even J-Mac said it, you just have to keep grinding.”
Maclin has since signed with the Ravens and many expect the dynamic Hill to become the focal point of the Chiefs offense.
Hill was a Pro Bowler last year as a reward for a season that saw him score 12 touchdowns from an average distance of 44 yards. The elusive 5-10, 185-pound receiver led the NFL with 30 forced missed tackles while catching 61 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns. He added 267 rushing yards and three scores, but really made an impact as a return specialist, with 976 combined return yards and three touchdown returns.
That rookie season landed Hill at No. 36 on NFL Network’s player-voted Top 100 list, an honor the Georgia native said gave him “chills.”
Hill is proud of his speed, with T-shirts printed last December depicting Hill as half-man/half-cheetah and declaring him as “the fastest cat on the planet.” The shirts were sold locally, and Hill donated the proceeds to the Children's Center for the Visually Impaired. Hill also plans to co-host a free football camp this summer with Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, a longtime friend.
That's quite a change from when Hill entered the NFL with several questions about his character after a domestic assault charge while in college. He was accused of punching his pregnant girlfriend and choking her in 2014. He was dismissed from Oklahoma State's team and finished his final college season at West Alabama. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation and was sentenced to three years probation with a mandated anger-management course and attendance in a year-long batterer's program and had to undergo a domestic-abuse evaluation.
Hill said his charitable activities are "way more than" improving his image off the field. He believes he owes it to the community.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a football player like Terrell Davis or Jamaal Charles," Hill said. "Me going back to my city and giving back, shows them that if I can do it, you can do it; being that role model.”
On the field, Hill wants to be more than “just the fast guy” and has remained in Kansas City the entire offseason to train — and not just physically.
“I had a good year last year, but I had a lot of mental mistakes,” Hill admitted.
In addition to the things he learned from Maclin, Hill said he has been watching film and picking the brains of third-year receiver Chris Conley and new receivers coach Greg Lewis to take his “game to the next level.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has experience with smaller, explosive playmakers like Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook. Reid said last week Hill is “still learning” but the Chiefs will find a way to balance his workload.
Hill believes the Chiefs will have a diverse offense and doesn’t expect to be its centerpiece. That said, the diminutive receiver will do anything the coaching staff asks of him, joking that he’d even line up at tight end.
Something to which Hill takes exception is when people say Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is a check-down quarterback. Hill said Smith has a much stronger arm than people give him credit and Kansas City’s ability to stretch the field could surprise some this season.
“People are going to realize that this year,” Hill said. “Everybody’s going to eat. It’s not just one guy. We’ve got multiple weapons on this offense and everybody can make plays.”
While the Chiefs selected former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Hill said the Chiefs are still Smith’s team.
“We all know Pat Mahomes can throw the ball a very far distance,” Hill said. “He’s going to be good when his number’s called. But right now, we all ride with Alex. He’s the big dog and the leader of the offense and this team.”
With the rookie's big arm, could Mahomes overthrow Hill on a straight fly route?
“No,” the speedy Hill said. “He cannot overthrow me. He would underthrow me.”