Bengals see Hill as complete package

Safety from Michigan expected to man multiple roles.

Credit: Morry Gash

Credit: Morry Gash

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals first-round draft pick Dax Hill said this week has been a whirlwind for him, but he’s especially grateful to his older brother helping him prepare for the experience of transitioning to the NFL.

The Bengals selected Hill, a versatile safety and nickel defender out of the University of Michigan, with the 31st pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night, making him the second in his family of two boys to be drafted to the league. Hill’s older brother, Justice, played running back at Oklahoma State and was a 2019 fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

“He’s definitely been a big supporter in my corner, especially during these times right now, so I’m really just relying on him, not really just trying to figure it out myself,” Hill said Friday afternoon during an introductory press conference at Paul Brown Stadium. “So, he’s definitely been a big part of this process for me. So, definitely having him, and him going through the same process, has kind of been beneficial for me and then going forward, I kind of know what to expect as well.”

Hill said the best advice his brother gave him was to “just take it a day at a time,” as Justice warned him about how long his first year would feel and the dangers of hitting the “rookie wall.”

His family and friends have been “big supporters” throughout his career. Hill said his mom got everything ready for his draft party while he spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas for a Players Association event. He caught a flight back to Tulsa, Oklahoma, at 5 a.m. Thursday to be with his family for the draft.

When it got to the 30th pick and Hill still hadn’t gotten a call, he was just hoping he wouldn’t have to ask everyone to come back the next day to do it all again.

“I didn’t want to get too high or low, but yeah, I was kind of getting a little antsy toward the end of it,” Hill said. “But I was just ecstatic once I got that phone call. So that’s all it was. And I was just going throughout the night, just however I was feeling, I was just like ‘It’s an opportunity for me whenever that is and I’m just going to make the most out of it.’”

The Oklahoma native isn’t worried about fitting into any particular role but just wants to step in wherever the team needs him. He calls himself a “personable guy” who understands the importance of being a good teammate, and he is confident that will help him make an impact right away.

Hill wanted to make sure the Bengals, and other teams, saw the full picture of what kind of player they would be getting on and off the field if they drafted him.

“I’m level headed, I know I have good character,” Hill said. “I’m a good person, really look out for the best interest of the team, and like I said, I’m not really selfish, I’m not that type of person. So I know, coming to the NFL, it’s all about winning and being team-oriented. And I feel like that’s who I am as a person.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said they saw him as a complete package, and his ability to play multiple roles especially made him appealing. Hill was a three-year starter at Michigan and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after a standout 2021 season in which he led the team in passes defended (11) and interceptions (two).

Hill grew up more of a basketball lover, and the athleticism he showed on the court as a point guard and shooting guard actually made him a better football player. He picked up football in fourth grade, playing running back and linebacker and started out at Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School as a wide receiver. His coaches tried him at safety at one point and it stuck ever since then.

He gave up basketball after his freshman year and lettered in track as a sophomore, standing out in the sprint events. A five-star recruit out of high school, Hill was the No. 1 safety in the 2019 recruiting class (No. 14 recruit overall) and the No. 1 recruit in the state of Oklahoma.

Hill said he never really followed a pro football team as a youth because he preferred watching basketball. His all-time favorite player was Michael Jordan, though before his time, and that’s why he picked the No. 23 with the Bengals.

“I was trying to walk on for basketball at one point because I was a basketball player growing up, that was my first love,” Hill said. “But that just never happened.”

Fortunately, football worked out well for him. He’s excited to be a Bengal.

“It’s just been a whirlwind,” Hill said. “I’m sleep deprived. I don’t even feel like I’m here right now, … but it’s been a once in a lifetime experience.”

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