College football is a weird, beautiful sport, with many of its heroes flying against everything that we think we know about the game. We know that college recruitment rankings matter, yet one of the sport's most dominating defense playmakers is a grown man named Scooby, a two-star recruit that flew completely under the radar. A 400 pound man can become a tight end and catch touchdown passes. Dozens of undersized wideouts and running backs catch fire every season.
Regardless of conventional wisdom about body type, background, scheme, and more, some of the best players every season shatter the mold and break into the spotlight, and our hearts.
Taysom Hill was one of those players, and the entire college football world, not just BYU fans, are poorer without him playing.
If you were to tell an average college football fan, or even an average media member, that BYU's QB was a white dude from Idaho that was 6-2, 234 pounds and a dual-threat QB, they'd probably imagine a quarterback who plays with the subtlety of a jackhammer, simply bullying defenses inside, like Tim Tebow used to do. You would probably hear him described as "gritty" or "deceptively athletic," words that have been used to describe many a successful BYU athlete over the years, with varying degrees of accuracy.
Does THIS seem deceptively athletic to you?
Taysom Hill wasn't deceptively athletic. He WAS athletic, in an elite, explosive way that few in college football could match. He was at least as big as many of the linebackers who would try to cover him, but he was also faster, with an uncommon acceleration in the open field. He was strong enough to shake off a tackler, both in the pocket and on the run, but also shifty enough to make one miss, or just scoot right past them.
And when a defense sold out to stop him in the open field, well, Hill wasn't just a quarterback because he could run the football really well. Check out this play against Virginia (who had a good secondary!), around the one minute mark:
That's not just smart schematic planning and good discipline, those are things that few players in college football could pull off, period. You might expect those type of plays to come from Ohio State, or Oregon, or Auburn, but typically not from a place like BYU, slightly off the beaten path, not chock full of elite recruits, and not a place with the reputation for raw athleticism.
Taysom Hill wasn't a perfect football player. He sometimes struggled to make multiple reads, he could force a few passes, and he occasionally deferred to his running ability a little too quickly. In other words, he was a college quarterback. Perfection is hardly a prerequisite to collegiate glory, and in fact, it can be a little bit of a hindrance. Superman is the hero with no flaws, and nobody can relate to Superman, or even really like him. Hill was Batman, maybe not the hero western college football fans deserved, but certainly the one they needed.
It is unfortunate that his greatest flaw, his lack of durability, is the source for the untimely end of yet another promising season. Maybe Hill's inability to avoid injury is a byproduct of his physical, all-out playing style. Maybe he was just cursed with bad luck. Who knows, and who cares? Hill playing any other way would have robbed him of what made him not just Taysom Hill, but TAYSOM HILL DOT GIF, with all caps, perhaps accompanied by Greg Wrubell screaming into the night because Hill just trucked some poor fool from San Jose State into next week.
I don't think Taysom Hill will be remembered as one of the best BYU QBs of all time. That isn't his fault, since BYU boasts more historically elite college quarterbacks than nearly any other school. His statistical output, and BYU's on the field success, don't quite match up with some of his rarified contemporaries. I'm not even sure that Hill is the best BYU QB in recent history.
I don't pretend to have an encyclopedic knowledge of BYU football, since I had limited access to their games growing up. But without question, Taysom Hill is the most exciting BYU athlete I have ever watched, and he's probably the most exciting BYU player you've watched, too. As BYU's offense evolved from an air-raid to incorporating read-option principles, Hill anchored one of the most creative and dynamic attacks in recent memory.
Given BYU's unique position in the college football landscape, he also came at a perfect time. BYU might be able to be forgiven for not being elite, but they couldn't be boring. And Taysom Hill was anything but boring. And if he isn't one of the 'best' players per se, he'll certainly be one of the most beloved, and for good reason.
Have we seen the last of Hill? It's hard to say. Hill isn't just a unique athlete because of his physical gifts, he's also unique in that he could graduate and make more money, right off the bat, doing something that has nothing to do with football. Turns out, he's kind of a smart kid too.
"If he's getting drafted in the sixth or seventh round and he has a job opportunity to go work for
Goldman Sachsin New York or San Francisco, it'd be very tough for me to say he should go play pro football," said Lambert, a BYU alum. "He'll make a lot more money not only in the long run but probably in the short- to medium-term. Save your body, save your head and go do this. I think he'll be happier, his family will be happier and long-term it will be better for him.
The future is bright for BYU at the QB position, and the Cougars could potentially be just fine this season even with Hill on the bench. But it's unlikely their offense is going to be as exciting as it was before, or at least, not exciting in the same way. Taysom Hill was unique, a highlight waiting to happen -- appointment viewing from St. George to St.Louis -- in a way that few BYU athletes before him can claim. Not even Jimmer, who could drain threes all the way from Sandy, was electric in the same way.
Hill's absence is a loss for BYU fans, but if you like exciting football, if you like the possibility of screaming HOW DID HE DO THAT? at your TV, no matter who you primarily root for, you'll miss Taysom Hill too. I know I will.