Kenny Hill is no stranger to pressure.
Whether it was as the five star quarterback of North Texas powerhouse Southlake High School or playing in front of 100,000 plus at Kyle Field, the man formerly known as “Trill” has experienced the brightest of lights and the biggest of spotlights.
But as TCU fans know well, he’s been through the darkness too: from throwing for 500+ yards at #9 South Carolina, to being replaced by a true freshman later that same season, to a two game suspension and ultimately a transfer to TCU, Hill has truly lived the peaks and valleys.
Hill’s time at TCU wasn’t without controversy either, namely a disappointing 2016 that included the infamous “rising kings/throat slash” against Arkansas, 13 interceptions, and a 6-7 record that included a Liberty Bowl loss to a pretty bad Georgia team that had people calling for Foster Sawyer to replace him behind center. But Hill bounced back in 2017, leading the Frogs to 11 wins, a berth in the Big 12 Championship game, and a(nother) thrilling come from behind win in the Alamo Bowl, this time over Stanford. “He felt like he had to be perfect,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said ahead of that season. “You just need to throw it so they can catch it.”
After his professional prospects flamed out, Hill returned to Fort Worth and the program that had helped him mature, serving as a student assistant in 2018, rising to the position of graduate assistant in 2019, earning an offensive analyst role in 2020, and ultimately becoming one of the country’s youngest quarterback coaches ahead of the 2021 season.
The early returns are excellent.
“He knows how to relate,” TCU starting quarterback Max Duggan said. “He’s played the position. He knows what it’s like when the bullets are flying. He knows what it’s like to be in that position. He lets us know: ‘No regrets, just let it fly out there.’”
That quote is from 247 Sports “30 Under 30” series, a ranking noting some of the best young college football assistants in the game. Back when he was a cocky young QB starting games in the SEC, few thought he would become one of the key cogs in TCU Football’s system, not only helping a corp of young quarterbacks get ready for a season rife with expectations, but becoming one of the better recruiters in the Big 12 as the Frogs navigate an uncertain conference future.
“Kenny is always a guy that’s had the “It” factor as far as a personality,” TCU Football coach Gary Patterson said in a press conference this summer. “It became very clear he would be the right answer for us because of his relationship with Max and the other quarterbacks and also that he has such a high end as far as personality and being able to recruit and do all those other things.”
Kenny Trill had the “juice”, and Coach Kenny Hill seems to as well; you don’t need to spend much time around the practice facilities or on the sidelines to see the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the program. Never without a smile, Hill seems to love his job in a way that some of the older, more grizzled vets in the position can tend to lose. He brings youth, relativity, and exuberance to a room that is otherwise filled with some of those grizzled vets: you can’t deny the bonafides of guys like Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill, but it’s been a good long while since either of them have strapped on the pads.
“He loves football,” Patterson said. “Now we just need to mold him into being a guy that can be in this profession on a day-to-day basis and be in it a long time. That’s my job.”
If we see a marked improvement in Max Duggan’s accuracy, if we see TCU continue to recruit high-level quarterback prospects, if the Horned Frogs get back to their winning ways, Kenny Hill will deserve a good chunk of the credit. But it’s clear from those outside of the TCU fanbase that this was a strong move for GP and TCU Football already.