As players scurried off the practice field Wednesday, Anthony Hill was in no rush. Before he took time for an interview, he stuck around to catch extra passes, saying he just wants to be sure he’s ready to catch anything that come his way on Saturday to give State an edge.
After a knee injury sidelined Hill in 2007, he emerged as the team leader during the offseason, determined to return to the All-ACC form he displayed his junior year and hoping to instill a winning mindset in his teammates. But when Hill strained his chest in the opening contest against South Carolina, he again found himself having to inspire his teammates from the sideline.
“It was painful," said Hill. "It definitely hurt a lot to be with the team the whole spring and summer, and to be with the team throughout camp and to go down in the first game and be out for four or five games.
"It was very, very tough. I feel like that’s what I was made for, to just keep on fighting and keep on pushing. Now that I’m back I’m doing everything possible to stay on the field.”
Hill said he likely injured his chest after originally straining it while “working it a little too hard on bench press.” He returned against Boston College, but he stated that the Florida State game was the "big test." With that being said, he looked like the Anthony Hill of two seasons ago when he pulled in a Russell Wilson pass in the second quarter against the Seminoles, and rushing into the end zone for a 20-yard score.
Though the team needs his production offensively, the tougher task for Hill may be keeping his teammates confident mentally. With five games remaining, the team can only afford one more loss to remain bowl eligible. Hill said he has been reminding his teammates of the embarrassing 34-0 loss to Maryland last season as motivation.
“It’s so easy to hang your head down and say, we’re 2-5 now, and we’re not having the season we thought we were going to have, and things like that. Instead, we’re doing the exact opposite,” Hill said. “We just keep on pushing, trying to keep everybody up, and trying to get every body going fully speed and have the energy and still believe that we can go in on Saturday and beat [Maryland].”
As a junior in 2006, Hill lead the team with 45 receptions, 15 more than any other Wolfpack player. As a result, he was second team All-ACC and projected to be the league's top tight end his senior year. He also looked to be on a fast track to the NFL.
Though the battle with injuries has hurt Hill’s draft stock, he said he feels the best he has physically since his junior year. Now he is 10 pounds lighter, faster, and even stronger than two seasons ago. His primary goal is to help the team win, but he hopes he can regain the attention of NFL scouts and show them his potential.
“I’m definitely fighting just to get back to where people can see that I am healthy and I am back and I’m going to stay healthy,” Hill said. “But I kind of put all of that in God’s hands. I just want to keep on pushing to become a much better athlete.”