Rookie wideout Tyreek Hill has repaid the Chiefs’ faith in him by emerging as one of the league’s most dangerous offensive threats over the last three months.
And on Tuesday, the NFL recognized him for that, as he was among four Chiefs selected to the 2017 Pro Bowl.
Hill, who made it as a return specialist, will be joined in Orlando, Fla., by cornerback Marcus Peters, tight end Travis Kelce and safety Eric Berry, the latter three of whom will be starters.
The Chiefs selected Hill, 22, in the fifth round in May out of West Alabama amid controversy, as the club selected him just months after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his pregnant girlfriend in 2014.
But since Hill’s selection, Chiefs coach Andy Reid says Hill is thriving in all he’s supposed to be doing to rehabilitate himself, which presumably includes participating in court-mandated anger-management classes and completing a year-long batterer’s intervention program.
“He came here with the incident obviously,” Reid said back in late November. “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.”
And on the field, Hill is thriving as well. The former Oklahoma State product has gone on to return a punt for a score and a kick for a score.
He is fifth in the NFL and third in the AFC in kick-return average at 28.2 yards per return, and third in the NFL and second in the AFC in punt-return average at 14.0 yards per return. Hill has also had multiple return touchdowns called back due to penalties.
But Hill’s impact hasn’t been limited to special teams, even though that’s the primary reason he made the Pro Bowl. He’s also made a significant impact as a receiver for the Chiefs, 10-4.
Despite playing only 351 of 887 possible offensive snaps (39.6 percent), Hill is second on the team with 56 receptions for 547 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also rushed 15 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns for the league’s 23rd-ranked offense, which has been largely inconsistent except for Hill’s flashes of explosiveness.
Hill has amassed a team-high 10 touchdowns during a season in which he joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only two players in NFL history to score two-plus rushing touchdowns, two-plus receiving touchdowns, a punt-return touchdown and a kick-return touchdown during their rookie seasons.
Now Hill is even at the point where people are clamoring for him to get the ball more. After logging only one offensive touch — a 68-yard touchdown run — in a 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Reid said he could have done a better job getting the ball in Hill’s hands.
But Hill, who has been exceedingly humble and deferential to his teammates and coaches during his dealings with the media all season, didn’t come close to griping about his lack of touches after Sunday’s loss.
“I just go out there and play — I mean, that’s what I’m paid to do, just go out there and play and run as fast as I can,” Hill said. “So whatever they tell me to do, whatever they tell anybody else to do, that’s not our job. Our job is to catch footballs, block and throw. So that’s what we do.”
Hill is the Chiefs second rookie to earn to earn a Pro Bowl nod in as many years. Prior to Peters accomplishing the feat last season, it had not been done since Berry did it in 2010.
Meanwhile, this marks the second straight year the trio of Berry, Peters and Kelce has made the Pro Bowl.
This will be the fifth Pro Bowl nod for Berry, 27, the heart and soul of the Chiefs who has missed only two defensive snaps all year while recording 73 tackles, eight passes defensed, three interceptions and two touchdowns. Berry is playing on the $10.8 million franchise tender, which means he will be a free agent after the season barring an extension or another franchise tender, which would be 20 percent higher (per league rules) in 2017.
It will be the second Pro Bowl nod for Kelce, 27, who has caught a team-high 73 passes for 957 yards and three touchdowns this season and is on track to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his four-year career. He’s also recorded a catch in 46 straight games, tying the fifth-best streak in franchise history.
This will also be the second Pro Bowl nod for Peters, 23, who has recorded 41 tackles, 17 passes defensed and five interceptions this season. Opponents have actively started to avoid the second-year pro, who was chosen the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year in 2015 after he led the league in interceptions (eight) and passes defensed (34).
The Chiefs’ four Pro Bowl selections are one fewer than they had last season, when outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali joined Kelce, Peters and Berry.
Hali and Houston, who have both been limited at times this season by knee issues, did not make it this time around for this year’s Pro Bowl game, which will pit the AFC vs. the NFC on Jan. 29 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
But the other three did, and so did Hill, the dynamic rookie whose impact for a team that has sometimes found points hard to come by cannot be overstated.
2017 Pro Bowl rosters
QUARTERBACKS (3): s-Tom Brady, New England; Derek Carr, Oakland; Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt.. WIDE RECEIVERS (4): s-Antonio Brown, Pitt.; s-Amari Cooper, Oakland; A.J. Green, Cincinnati; T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis. RUNNING BACKS (3): s-Le’Veon Bell, Pitt.; LeSean McCoy, Buffalo; DeMarco Murray, Tennessee. FULLBACK (1): s,x-Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore. TIGHT ENDS (2): s-Travis Kelce, Kansas City; Delanie Walker, Tennessee. TACKLES (3): s-Donald Penn, Oakland; s-Joe Thomas, Cleveland; x-Taylor Lewan, Tennessee. GUARDS (3): s,x-Kelechi Osemele, Oakland; s-Marshal Yanda, Baltimore; David DeCastro, Pitt.. CENTERS (2): s,x-Rodney Hudson, Oakland; Maurkice Pouncey, Pitt..
DEFENSIVE ENDS (3): s-Khalil Mack, Oakland; s-Cameron Wake, Miami; x-Jadeveon Clowney, Houston. INTERIOR LINEMEN (3): s-Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; s-Ndamukong Suh, Miami; Jurrell Casey, Tennessee. OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (3): s-Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo; s-Von Miller, Denver; Brian Orakpo, Tennessee. INSIDE/MIDDLE LINEBACKERS (2): s,x-Dont’a Hightower, New England; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore. CORNERBACKS (4): s-Marcus Peters, Kansas City; s-Aqib Talib, Denver; Chris Harris, Jr., Denver; x-Casey Hayward, San Diego. FREE SAFETIES (2): s-Devin McCourty, New England; Reggie Nelson, Oakland. STRONG SAFETY (1): s-Eric Berry, Kansas City.
PUNTER (1): Pat McAfee, Indianapolis. PLACEKICKER (1): Justin Tucker, Baltimore. RETURN SPECIALIST (1): x-Tyreek Hill, Kansas City. SPECIAL TEAMER (1): Matthew Slater, New England.
QUARTERBACKS (3): s-Matt Ryan, Atlanta; x-Dak Prescott, Dallas; Aaron Rodgers, G. Bay. WIDE RECEIVERS (4): s-Odell Beckham, Jr., N.Y. Giants; s-Julio Jones, Atlanta; x-Mike Evans, Tampa Bay; Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona. RUNNING BACKS (3): s,x-Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas; Devonta Freeman, Atlanta; x-David Johnson, Arizona. FULLBACK (1): s-Mike Tolbert, Carolina. TIGHT ENDS (2): s-Greg Olsen, Carolina; x-Jordan Reed, Wash.. TACKLES (3): s-Tyron Smith, Dallas; s-Trent Williams, Wash.; Jason Peters, Phila.. GUARDS (3): s-Zack Martin, Dallas; s,x-Brandon Scherff, Washington; x-T.J. Lang, G. Bay. CENTERS (2): s-Travis Frederick, Dallas; Alex Mack, Atlanta.
DEFENSIVE ENDS (3): s,x-Cliff Avril, Seattle; s-Everson Griffen, Minn.; Michael Bennett, Seattle. INTERIOR LINEMEN (3): s-Aaron Donald, LA; s-Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay; Fletcher Cox, Phila.. OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (3): s,x-Vic Beasley, Atlanta; s-Ryan Kerrigan, Wash.; Thomas Davis, Carolina. INSIDE/MIDDLE LINEBACKERS (2): s-Bobby Wagner, Seattle; Luke Kuechly, Carolina. CORNERBACKS (4): s,x-Janoris Jenkins, N.Y. Giants; s-Patrick Peterson, Arizona; x-Xavier Rhodes, Minn.; Richard Sherman, Seattle. FREE SAFETIES (2): s-Harrison Smith, Minn.; x-Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, G. Bay. STRONG SAFETY (1): s,x-Landon Collins, N.Y. Giants.
PUNTER (1): Johnny Hekker, LA. PLACEKICKER (1): x-Matt Bryant, Atlanta. RETURN SPECIALIST (1): Cordarrelle Patterson, Minn.. SPECIAL TEAMER (1): x-Dwayne Harris, N.Y. Giants.
s-Starter; x- First pro bowl selection