PROVO — Running back Jamaal Williams was dancing and quarterback Taysom Hill was throwing.
Those were two good signs for BYU on the first day of spring practices under first-year coach Kalani Sitake and his staff.
Yes, there was a blend of both old and new for the Cougars on Day One.
Williams and Hill, a pair of fifth-year seniors, returned to the practice field Tuesday after Williams withdrew from school prior to last season and Hill suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener at Nebraska.
As they head into the final season of eligibility, both were glad to be on the field again — even if they are learning a new offense.
“It felt great. I was joking around with some of the guys that it felt like I never left,” Hill said of the first day of practice. “It was so much fun to be back on the field with the guys, to be able to put on a jersey and helmet and cleats It was like Christmas morning.”
“I feel old. In April, I’m turning 21. I’m an old man now. Taysom’s like 30,” said Williams, who showed off some dance moves before practice began. “We’re just old, still playing college football. We’re just having fun with it. We’re glad to still be on the same team and finish our last year with each other and have a great time this year.”
Until recently, there were questions about whether they would return to BYU.
“I was going to come back, play and finish my years here and be a mature person I’m always loyal to where I started and I always come back to where I started,” Williams said. “I finish what I start. I was always going to come back to BYU and finish my college career here.”
“There’s a lot of factors that went into that decision process,” Hill said. “My wife and I spent a lot of time and there were a lot of people that were closely involved. I’m happy that I’m here. It was the right place for me and I’m looking forward to the future.”
While Hill will be limited during the spring due to his foot injury, Sitake knows what he brings to his team.
“Great player, great leader. We want him around as much as possible,” he said. “His presence is huge for us right now. It’s great to have him out there with the guys.”
New offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is happy to have Williams as a weapon.
“We want to establish the run game. We want to be able to run the ball. He’s a big part of that. He’ll have a big hand in what’s going on,” Detmer said. “He’s a downhill runner. He runs well between the tackles. He’s a guy that can do it all. He’s going to be really good with what we’re going to ask him to do. He’s a very talented player. He was excited to be out on the field. It’s been a while for him. He brings that enthusiasm and that attitude.”
“I love playing with Jamaal. I missed him last year,” Hill said. “He and I were joking that, it’s 2016 and we’re teammates again. We had a good laugh about it. I’m very excited to be playing with Jamaal again.”
While Williams said he is "100 percent" healthy, Hill is not there yet.
“I’m nowhere close to 100 (percent),” Hill said. “I started jogging on dry land for two weeks now. That would give you an idea.”
The recovery time for this injury is “slower, for sure” than other injuries he’s sustained in his career. He underwent surgery five months ago.6 comments on this story
“At that time with my other surgeries, I was feeling really good,” he said. “It’s definitely slower. I’m hoping in a month I’ll be able to run around pretty good. I don’t feel any pressure to come back too soon and re-aggravate it. I’m going to take my time and make sure I’m healthy and ready to go.”
Hill and Williams are looking to close out their collegiate careers with a memorable season under a new coaching staff.
“I love football. Coming back, it made it more special for the first practice after being away for so long, putting your helmet, having fun as usual,” Williams said. “Now, I’m back into it. My special moment is over. I’m back to being a football player.”