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News » Undrafted RB Hill gladly accepts shot to play for N.O.

Undrafted RB Hill gladly accepts shot to play for N.O.

Undrafted RB Hill gladly accepts shot to play for N.O.
Running back P.J. Hill worked hard in college to stay one step ahead of the opposition, but his past caught up with him at the NFL draft and brought him down for a significant loss.

After twice being arrested on charges of DUI less than two months before the draft, Wisconsin's third all-time leading rusher saw his dreams of a being selected go up in smoke. After all was said and done, 32 teams passed on the 22-year-old from East Elmhurst, N.Y., forcing him to scramble for a job as a free agent.

On Friday, Hill joined his new team in New Orleans, where he plans to make amends for his transgressions.

"As far as my situation goes, I know the NFL is big on the whole character thing," said Hill in between two rookie camp workouts at the Saints' practice facility in Metairie. "That was my fault. I just have to show them that this stuff is all behind me, and I'm ready to contribute to the team and show them that I have matured from that. And, in the future, if they put me on this team, they won't have any problems with me at all.

"I hurt myself, and I hurt a lot of people who care for me, including my family. I'm going to take that mistake and learn from it. I'm just ready to play some Football, and it all starts today."

If Hill fulfills his vow, the Saints just might have found themselves another piece to their running-back puzzle.

In three seasons with the Badgers, Hill rushed 770 times for 3,942 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns. As a freshman in 2006, he led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,569 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

In 2008, he rushed 226 times for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns, then opted to turn pro and bypass his final year of eligibility.

Everything seemed to be going well until his first run-in with the law in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was arrested for DUI while training for pre-draft workouts. Charges still are pending.

In mid-March, he again was arrested for DUI, this time in Madison, Wis. That case is expected to be concluded May 15 with Hill pleading guilty to refusing to take a Breathalyzer exam, a civil offense, with his other traffic citations (reckless endangerment and driving without proper headlights) to be dismissed by prosecutors.

Those indiscretions cost him thousands of dollars. Also, he could be subjected to random testing under the league's drug and substance abuse policy.

"We were being told he had anywhere from third-round grades to seventh-round grades," said Hill's agent. Blake Baratz. "I highly doubted he would have gone undrafted, but who knows? The draft is a crapshoot.

"In some respects, it's a valuable and costly lesson. In some respects, he could be better off in the long run for having it happened, not short-term financially. But from a maturity standpoint, I think he has grown a lot and learned a lot from it."

Hill, 5 feet 10, 218 pounds, settled on New Orleans after talking with officials from Houston, Seattle and Washington. He signed a three-year contract in New Orleans calling for minimum base salaries and a modest signing bonus between $5,000 and $15,000.

Part of the appeal for Hill is that Saints Coach Sean Payton wants to upgrade the running back position, which features Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Lynell Hamilton and undrafted rookie free-agent Herb Donaldson.

"A lot had been made of us potentially taking a runner in the draft," Payton said. "And then you don't draft one or you only have four picks, the player waiting at the end of the draft is thinking, 'Hey, they only had four draft picks and they didn't draft a runner, this might be a good place.' "

After researching the depth charts of the other teams, Hill decided to take his chances with Payton and the Saints .

"My agent thought this was the best fit for me because they didn't draft a running back and because Deuce (McAllister) is gone," Hill said. "I feel like if I keep working hard and show the coaches that I'm able to contribute to this team, I'll be able to help out. That's what I'm going to keep doing."

Baratz said he believed the Saints would be a good fit for Hill because of the makeup of their roster, which also includes another client, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

"P.J. is a good kid who works hard and means well," Baratz said. "I think he got into some things that he will admit were bad decisions and he made mistakes. As a man, he's willing to admit his mistakes and move on. It was a self-inflicted wound. He knows he's on a short leash now. He learned his lesson the hard way, and it's just another bump in the road."

Said Hill: "I think I've got a chance of making the team."

. . . . . . .

Brian Allee-Walsh can be reached at ballee-walsh@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3805.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 9, 2009

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Yeremiah Bell Name: Yeremiah Bell
Position: S
Age: 30
Experience: 5 years
College: Eastern Kentucky
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