Nick Hill is having the happiest of new years.
On Jan. 7, he got married in Jamaica. On Friday, Jan. 20, he was signed by the Green Bay Packers. His wedding reception was the next day.
Not a bad start to 2012, hey?
“Yeah, no kidding,” Hill told Packer Report on Friday.
It’s been an uphill climb — pardon the pun — to Green Bay.
After an all-state carer as a football and basketball player at DuQuoin (Ill.) High School, Hill took a basketball scholarship to Western Kentucky. He played in 23 games as a freshman before transferring to Southern Illinois, where he decided to play football. The Salukis’ starting quarterback in 2006 and 2007, he completed 68.0 percent of his passes for 4,896 yards, with 43 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
He went undrafted in 2008 and signed with the Bears, though he didn’t make it to the first preseason game. He toiled in arena football for three seasons, including in 2009 with the Rio Grande (Texas) franchise in arenafootball2. He played for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League in 2010 and 2011, throwing 97 touchdown passes last season. He was set to play for the Tampa Bay Storm this year before the Packers came calling.
“I don’t have anything to lose,” Hill said. “I’ve been playing Arena Football for three years and had fun, but this is what it’s all about. I played arena2 football when the (Arena) League went down in 2009. I played in Texas, and we’d go all over the country and sometimes it would be 14-, 15-hour bus rides to go play in front of a 1,000 fans. To say that I’m on the Green Bay Packers from that, I’m going to give them reason to believe in me and work hard. I have full confidence in myself that I’m good enough to play.”
How did he wind up in Green Bay? What does he have to say about Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers? And what did Ted Thompson say to keep Hill motivated after toiling in arena football? Read our Q&A with Hill by clicking here.
Between Hill’s stint in Chicago and his signing with Green Bay, he had just two workouts with NFL teams. One came in 2008 with Indianapolis. The other came in 2010 with Green Bay.
“I had a workout but that was for last year’s offseason but there wasn’t one with the lockout,” Hill said. “So, I played again (with Orlando) and had another pretty good season. (The Packers) stayed in contact with me and said they were still interested in bringing me back for this offseason. It probably worked out better this year than last year because it seems like Matt Flynn is probably going to be gone. I got cut from the Bears in ‘08 and spent three years in the Arena League trying for another opportunity, so any opportunity is a good one.”
There’s one obvious example of an Arena Football League quarterback hitting it big in the NFL, and that’s Kurt Warner. While the AFL and NFL are miles apart in terms of talent and style, there are some facets of the indoor game that have Hill prepared for the outdoor game.
“There’s definitely things that I feel like will help me transitioning into the NFL, like getting the ball out quick,” he said. “There’s no time to waste in the Arena League. Every drive’s a pressure drive and you’re expected to score on every drive. There’s little windows. There’s no room for error or you’re going to get picked off. It’s timing and anticipation. Reading some of the things that Kurt Warner said, once he got back outside, he felt like he had an extra second to get rid of the ball because in the Arena League everything happens so fast. Hopefully, I’ll experience the same thing.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.