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Life After Reinstatement: Where Does Jeremy Hill Go From Here?

Hill's biggest struggles will be off the field as he waits to play in 2013


Amid the ballyhoo of Johnny Manziel potentially signing autographs for profit and the latest round of performance enhancing drug suspensions in Major League Baseball yesterday, LSU running back Jeremy Hill’s probation revocation hearing occurred Monday morning in a Baton Rouge courtroom. Devotees of LSU football need little introduction to Hill, who led team in rushing last season with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Redemptorist High product proved to be game changer at times in 2012, breaking off long runs for touchdowns in games against South Carolina and Texas A&M, as well as scoring a late game-winner against Ole Miss. Hill’s suspension and possible dismissal from the 2013 team after a (decidedly one-sided) bar fight would have dealt a blow to LSU’s offense, albeit not one it could not recover from. Hill was not an asset that LSU could not lose. Rather he was one that, given the chance, they preferred not to lose.

I’m sure many fans other than myself kept up with Hill’s hearing Monday morning (hats off to The Advocate’s Matthew Harris for the great coverage), hoping to hear a favorable result, which they did – on the first day of Fall practice, no less. District Judge Bonnie Jackson extended Hill’s probation an extra two years, perpetuated a standing 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM curfew – allowing football activities – issued in a prior hearing, and gave him 40 hours of community service to boot. Monday afternoon, LSU closed practice to the media. No one had to guess why.

Les Miles reinstated Hill almost immediately after what turned out to be a four month ban from team activities. Whether or not Hill deserves further punishment is up to Miles and the LSU coaching staff. Some would have kicked Hill off the team immediately after video of the incident in Tigerland surfaced. Others would have him taking the first carry from scrimmage under the lights of Cowboys Stadium on August 31st.

But how Miles will further discipline Hill is anyone’s guess, though he has said it is going to happen. There is no longer any doubt that Jeremy Hill will don purple and gold and play in Tiger Stadium this season. Obviously Miles has taken stock of what Hill has already been through. He made sure to say that four months of being cut off from his best friends and support structure was likely a harsh punishment enough for the 20 year old. I would be inclined to agree. He was also sure to say that Hill acted in a way that let the entire program down. Miles was strong and firm in his statements, almost like a father that’s been through similar ordeals far too many times.

Jeremy Hill had a chance to speak after practice as well, fielding no questions after giving a statement of maybe thirty seconds. He was apologetic, if not a little embarrassed to be speaking with the media, given the (somewhat) positive circumstances. Hill and everyone around him know and have seen his potential. He knows he jeopardized a potential future in the NFL, as well as what could be a fourth ten win season in as many years for his teammates. It seemed to be a quiet finale to something which began with such great fanfare.

However, this is only the end of the beginning in this whole ordeal. Hill has gotten a third chance to make good on his talents after violating the law twice. I can’t defend what he did, and I’m sure few can. His transgressions and record are so well-known that they’ll follow him to Starkville, Oxford, and Tuscaloosa, should he be playing in October and beyond. Where fans are hostile and Hill is playing, there will be shouts of “thug” and other less politically-correct pejoratives from the stands. While some people may be able to hide past troubles with the law, he will always be confronted by them because of his status on the roster of a premier program in a premier conference.

On the flip side of that, Hill also has the opportunity to deflect the animosity that will no doubt be hurled his way by opposing fan bases in the simplest way – living well, and in the public eye. In 2012, Jeremy Hill jumped at the chance to pick up the slack for an injured Alfred Blue on the field. In 2013, Jeremy Hill has to jump at the chance to improve himself off the field by staying out of trouble when a million prying eyes will be keeping tabs on him. In 2012, Hill had other backs around him to help carry the load. In 2013 and beyond, Hill’s greatest struggle will be on him alone. There is no margin for error.