The first thing Gary Patterson wanted to know, Kenny Hill recalled, was what happened at Texas A&M.
The whole story. The 5-0 start. The three-game collapse. The two-game suspension. The night the police found him drunk and passed out outside of a College Station bar.
The tale, as it were, of “Kenny Trill.”
There was no reason for Kenny Hill to be anything less than truthful, a wise friend had told him, because this was Patterson and, “Trust me — he already knows.”
“That was tough, because I didn’t really want to talk about it,” Hill said Wednesday on the eve of the start of TCU’s fall practice. “I didn’t want to have to think about what happened at A&M anymore. I was trying to move on.”
Patterson, history reminds us, has had a knucklehead or two play quarterback for his Horned Frogs. Even Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the 2014 Heisman Trophy voting, got into a drunken bar fight two days before the Alamo Bowl.
“Coach P said, ‘We want to give you this opportunity, but you’ve got to prove to us that you deserve this opportunity,’ ” Hill said of that first meeting with his new coach.
“And that’s what I try to do now — prove day by day that I deserve this chance.”
Hill has not been named the TCU starting quarterback — yet. That announcement won’t come until the week before the first week of the season, Patterson said.
The transfer Hill and redshirt sophomore Foster Sawyer are contending for the position. That’s the story that Patterson and his assistants are going with for now, at least.
A layman’s interpretation of that, however, would be that the job is Hill’s to lose. As controversial as his finish was in College Station, Hill has played and won at college football’s highest level. Sawyer’s TCU ledger is skimpier and somewhat dimmed by a three-interception start last season at Oklahoma.
“Really, we need both of them,” Patterson said. “You can’t just have one quarterback and win championships around this place.”
As Hill told the story Wednesday, it was a coach at his former high school, Southlake Carroll, who steered him toward TCU after being released from his scholarship at A&M.
Patterson’s first suggestion was to enroll in junior college — but not at a JUCO football halfway house, like Blinn. Hill enrolled at Tarrant Community College — no football team — just a few miles from his home.
“I did it more for him than me,” Patterson said. “If he wasn’t here, nobody would be asking about him.”
Hill said the spring semester at TCC “allowed me to reflect, to find out more about myself as a person. It was a chance to go back to church and get right with the man upstairs again, which was something I needed.”
Instead of being 200 miles away, hanging around with Johnny Manziel, Hill spent his months before enrolling at TCU living at home, spending time with his family.
He had a part-time gig helping coach kids at a “quarterback school.” In the afternoons, he would drive to TCU and watch every spring practice.
His season of waiting is now over. Hill wants to show he is worthy of the chance.
“I’m beyond grateful,” he said Wednesday. “That’s something I told Coach P. It’s not every day that someone gets an opportunity like this.
“I knew I had to come in and work my way up to prove I deserve to be here … not only prove to my coaches but also my teammates.
“These are probably guys here who only know me as Kenny Trill.”
That’s Trill, as in “halfway between true and real,” as they used to say in Aggieland.
Hill shook his head at the memory Wednesday.
Previous college quarterbacks have transferred and been successful. Cam Newton for one. But Hill said he doesn’t want to model his story after Newton’s.
“I’m just trying to make my own path and write my own story,” Kenny Hill quietly said Wednesday.
“Maybe somebody one day can take an example from me.”