During his NFL career, Shaun Hill is 13-13 as a starting quarterback with San Francisco and Detroit. But he’s 4-0 as a starter against the St. Louis Rams, having passed for 808 yards and nine touchdowns.
Hill doesn’t have the Rams to kick around anymore, however. Instead, he’ll try to give the St. Louis offense a kick as its starting QB on Sunday – and he hopes beyond – against the Minnesota Vikings inside the Edward R. Jones Dome.
Hill has never been the man. His 26 starts came about because of injuries to starters and this year is no different. When St. Louis’ Sam Bradford re-injured a knee in the preseason after missing nine games in 2013, the 34-year-old Hill, from Parsons, was the next man up.
“Obviously, everybody feels bad for Sam and we all know how hard he worked to get back this year,” Hill said in a telephone interview. “At the same time, injuries are a part of this business. I’ve always tried to prepare as if I was the starter anyway so that when a situation like this arises, I don’t have to make a change in my preparation or anything like that.”
Hill was a three-sport standout in Parsons and the son of the high school basketball coach, Ted, who died three years ago.
“Growing up, baseball was my best sport but basketball was my love,” Hill said. “It’s when I got older and toward the end of my high school career that football came to the forefront for me.”
Hill was recruited by Pittsburg State but as a punter, not a quarterback. He instead signed with Hutchinson Community College, where he played quarterback for two seasons before transferring to Maryland, where he passed for 2,380 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior.
The 6-foot-4 Hill wasn’t drafted in 2002, but did sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. And 12 years later, he’s managed to put together a long NFL career, including Matthew Stafford’s backup in Detroit the past three years.
“I’ve had a few good games in the league,” Hill said. “Every game plays out differently, you never know what to expect. At any point, a game can change.”
Hill will need to be at his best for the Rams to compete in the difficult NFC West, where defending Super Bowl champion Seattle resides. That division also includes San Francisco and Arizona, so even with the expectation of a healthy Bradford, the Rams were being picked by most to finish fourth.
St. Louis does have a stout defense, though. The Rams should be able to effectively run the football with a committee-like tandem of Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham and rookie Tre Mason from Auburn.
A young receiving corps has been boosted by the acquisition of Kenny Britt from Tennessee. He’ll join Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis and, when he returns from a four-game suspension, Stedman Bailey. Rams coach Jeff Fisher has said he expects a big season from tight end Lance Kendricks.
“You have to be able to do everything well in this league – run and pass,” Hill said. “And in our division, it definitely pays to be able to run the football.
“Our receiving corps is a younger group, but there are some very talented guys. And we’re deep with a lot of guys who can play and play at a high level.”
Reality or typical preseason optimism? Only time will tell.
Hill will be dealing with the biggest spotlight of his career. The Rams have had sporadic quarterback play, really, since Kurt Warner disbanded “The Greatest Show on Turf” more than a decade ago. And it’s fair to wonder how much a 34-year-old journeyman is capable of producing at this stage in his career.
“The spotlight is definitely something I can deal with,” Hill said. “You just make sure you stay humble and stay who you are. Make sure your priorities are set. You can’t get pulled in a bunch of different directions.”
Hill’s priorities changed some in February. That’s when his wife and high school sweetheart, Ashton, gave birth to their baby boy, Theo.
“He’s named after my dad,” Hill said. “Both are Theodores, but we decided to go with Theo. He’s our first child and it’s been amazing. He helps put things in perspective when I come home from a hard day and he’s just ecstatic to see me without any concerns about the mistakes you might have made that day. And it helps, too, that I have an unbelievable wife.”
Hill thinks he’s better prepared to be successful than he ever has been. He’s been around a long time and has been taking copious notes.
“The whole experience of being in this league has made me better,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot that any defense can do out there that I haven’t seen before. I just try to take care of what I need to take care of on the field. As long as I play well, there’s really nothing to worry about.”