The more he grows as a player, the more rookie Chiefs wide receiver and return specialist Tyreek Hill understands how much his past becomes part of his public present.
On Wednesday, when Hill was chosen as the AFC offensive player of the week, he stood before a bank of reporters and cameras and spent almost as much time discussing his path to the Chiefs, which includes his dismissal from Oklahoma State for assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, as his performance against Denver Broncos on Sunday.
And what a performance. Hill scored three touchdowns and became the first NFL rookie to reach the end zone by rushing, receiving and a kick return since the Bears’ Gale Sayers in 1965.
His 3-yard touchdown reception with 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter led to overtime. The 86-yard return of a free kick was his first return score after several close calls.
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Hill’s 3-yard run came when he took a handoff from running back Spencer Ware, who lined up in the wildcat.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid opened his news conference speaking about Hill and his progress on and off the field.
The weekly honor, “is a tribute to the kid,” Reid said. “I’m probably more proud of him for what he’s doing off the field as on the field. The award is well deserved.
“He came here with the incident obviously. He’s handled himself in a good way. There haven’t been any issues. … He has things he has to do for the incident. He doesn’t miss anything. He does everything he’s supposed to do and that’s a plus.”
In 2015, Hill pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation. He’s on probation until August 2018 and won’t have additional penalties unless he violates conditions of his probation, including completion of an anger management course.
If Hill avoids trouble, the case will be dismissed and there will be no felony on his record. Hill said he’s doing everything required.
“I make sure I do those things in order for me to be a better person,” Hill said. “I’m real dedicated, I’m going to stick to it so I can be a better man, a better citizen for this community and a better father for my son.”
Hill leads the Chiefs with seven touchdowns. With the groin injury to Jeremy Maclin that has kept him out of action for a month, Hill has become the team’s top target at wide receiver. Only tight end Travis Kelce has more receptions that Hill, who has 45.
When he was drafted in the fifth round from West Alabama, where he finished his college career, Hill said he couldn’t envision this much production.
“I guess it just happens,” Hill said. “You play hard. You just stay hungry and try to keep up with the other guys.”
Or run into the end zone with them, as in his kick return. Hill was escorted over the final few yards by De’Anthony Thomas and the players clasped hands in a high five around the 5 and ran together into the end zone.
“It was a great moment,” Hill said. “We’ve been working on that in practice.”