PROVO — Being the starting quarterback at BYU carries with it certain responsibilities and expectations.
Sophomore Taysom Hill, who takes the reins of that celebrated position this season for the Cougars, understands.
“It’s definitely an honor, a privilege. But I also realize there’s a lot expected out of me. I know that,” Hill said. “I’m doing my best to fulfill that. I worked hard this offseason and no one holds me to any higher standard than I do. I think that will allow our offense to be successful here at BYU.”
The Cougars open the 2013 season Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPNU) at Virginia.
USA Today’s Paul Myerberg placed Hill No. 2 on a list of “Five first-year quarterbacks you need to know now.”
Of Hill, Myerberg wrote, “If Hill delivers as the full-time starter, BYU could make a charge for 10 or more wins. Hill is a mobile and athletic option who should add a different dimension on offense.”
After seeing his freshman season cut short due to injury, Hill is eager to return to the field.
Hill became the first true freshman to win his first start at BYU in a 47-0 blanking of Hawaii in late September. The week before that, he replaced an injured and ineffective Riley Nelson and drove his team to its only touchdown drive against Boise State.
In early October, he led the Cougars to a victory over Utah State, giving him a 2-0 record as a starter. In the waning moments of that game, though, Hill suffered, in bizarre fashion, a season-ending knee injury.
Suddenly, a freshman season so filled with promise — where he experienced “the emotional high of winning two games,” as Hill said — was over.
A miscommunication from the sidelines in the closing seconds against the Aggies resulted in Hill running a quarterback draw instead of taking a knee. On that play, he absorbed a hit that seriously injured his knee.
“I’ve watched that play hundreds of times,” Hill said. “I went through the emotions of, 'Man, if I would have just kneeled on the ball? Or if we would have just handed it off? Why didn’t we do this? why didn’t we do that?'”
The week after his injury, Hill stood on the sidelines at LaVell Edwards Stadium as the Cougars, wearing black jerseys, took on a top 10 team in Oregon State. Later, he underwent surgery. By late October, he was watching the BYU-Notre Dame game on television in his parents’ living room.
“To have to be at home to watch that game against a team you grew up watching, it was really hard,” Hill recalled. “I didn’t feel like I was part of the team. There I was playing, then the next minute, I was in a knee brace, not being able to put any pressure on my leg. I went through that, and it was a gradual process.”
Conversations with former Cougar tight end Chad Lewis inspired and helped Hill through the tough times.
Lewis, who serves as an associate athletic director at BYU, knows something about dealing with long-term injuries. He missed the Super Bowl due to a foot injury that he suffered after he caught a touchdown pass that sent the Philadelphia Eagles to the National Football League’s biggest game.
Lewis’ advice to Hill was not to worry about the circumstances he can’t control, and focus instead on the things he could control.
And that’s what Hill did.
“I overcame all that and I’ve become a better person and player because of it,” Hill said.
After 10 months of being patient, and dealing with setbacks, Hill is ready to embark on the 2013 season as BYU’s starting quarterback.
“It’s been a roller coaster, going through the knee injury and having to do the rehab,” Hill said. “That’s not including the mental aspect of things, having to overcome an injury and getting to where I am now. It’s been a long journey. But I feel that through the whole thing I’ve become a better football player and I’m looking forward to Virginia.”