Before his final season as quarterback at TCU, Kenny Hill gave baseball one more look.
With coach Gary Patterson’s permission, Hill said he worked out for the San Diego Padres last summer just out of curiosity.
“It went OK,” he said last week after TCU’s Alamo Bowl victory against Stanford. “Didn’t hit as well as I thought I was going to. I was just rusty. I worked, practiced a little bit, but it wasn’t anything too serious.”
Hill, the son of former Texas Rangers pitcher Ken Hill, hit .481 with four home runs as a senior third baseman at Southlake Carroll in 2013. He went undrafted and honored a football letter of intent with Texas A&M.
As a football prospect, Hill was a four-star rated the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in the country by 247Sports.com. He was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior and led Carroll to its eighth state championship as a junior.
But after a successful start at A&M in 2014, he lost the job eight games in, then was suspended for two games and eventually dismissed from his scholarship at the end of the season.
But he found a home at TCU with Patterson, sat out 2015 as a transfer, and started the last two years for the Horned Frogs. He went 16-8 in 24 starts and this season, after leading the Big 12 in interceptions a year earlier, set a TCU record for completion percentage.
“I think he’s appreciated the second opportunity, and to be honest with you, we have too,” Patterson said. “He’s tried to be everything we’ve wanted him to be within his abilities to help us win football games. His emotion when we lost our first game against Iowa State, to me, summed it up because he was very upset at himself and a lot of things, because he was coming back here to prove he was the kind of player he was when he left high school.”
In the Alamo Bowl, Hill set a TCU bowl record with 401 yards in total offense — 314 yards passing, 60 yards rushing, 27 yards receiving. The game marked the second time in 2017 that he ran for a touchdown, threw for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass; no other player in the country did it even once.
His 27 completions on 40 attempts and 314 yards against Stanford were a shade off Bram Kohlhausen’s TCU bowl records of 28 completions, 45 attempts and 351 yards.
“All these dudes in the locker room, they put their trust in me,” Hill said. “I love them. I love them all — Coach P for giving me this opportunity, everybody here. It means everything to me that I could have done this with these dudes.”
The baseball tryout perhaps gave Hill some closure about that part of his life. Pro football “is the only thing on my mind right now,” he said.
At the very least, the look at baseball was an appreciation from Patterson for Hill’s work in Fort Worth.
“Coaches, we have jobs because of young people,” Patterson said. “I think we forget sometimes we keep our jobs because they play well and win ballgames. How do you pay them back? You pay them back at the end, because they never quit being Frogs. You’re still writing job recommendations, you’re still making phone calls, you’re still doing all the things that you need to make sure you give them a chance to be successful, just like they’ve helped you be successful.”
For Patterson, Hill’s TCU career goes down as a positive.
“He left here a winner,” Patterson said. “He’ll be successful in life.”