Remember when Leroy Hill was one of the surprise from the 2005 NFL Draft? As the ninety-eighth overall selection, Hill spent his rookie season collecting 7.5 sacks as a part-time starter and situational pass rusher.
The following season, when the strong-side linebacker position was his to lose, Hill excelled. Playing alongside Lofa Tatupu, he recorded 92 tackles and a pair of sacks. The Seahawks trio of linebackers – Hill, Tatupu, and Julian Peterson – was one of the better units in the National Football League.
Lofa Tatupu once called Leroy Hill the most talented linebacker in Seattle.
“I’d say Leroy is our best linebacker,” Tatupu told reporters in 2008. “It’s tough to say that. I’ve got a lot of pride. Julian’s got a lot of pride. He probably wouldn’t admit it, but he’d be wrong in saying that Leroy isn’t our best linebacker.”
Julian Peterson, however, wasn’t shy about praising Hill.
“Leroy is definitely one of the best,” Peterson admitted. “He’s got the right combination – he hits with tenacious power, he runs to the ball, he can blitz, he can cover.”
That was about two years ago. Now, it is uncertain that Hill will even be starting for the Seahawks in 2010.
Last season, the Seahawks chose to designate Hill as their franchise player, guaranteeing he would not leave via free agency. After rescinding the tag following the draft, Hill agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal.
Hill, however, has never played a full sixteen-game season. After missing two starts in 2007, he has missed a combined nine games the past two seasons. As an undersized, athletic defender, Hill seems more prone to injuries – especially as he gets older.
But as a talented, versatile athlete, the injury risk was well worth it. If Hill is the most talented linebacker in Seattle, there is no reason to let him walk away without compensation.
Unfortunately, in addition to injuries , Hill can’t seem to stay out of trouble off the field. He received twelve months of probation in Georgia after pleading guilty to a charge of marijuana possession stemming from a January 2009 traffic stop in suburban Atlanta.
Just days after reaching a plea deal on the marijuana charge, Hill was arrested for investigation of domestic violence in Issaquah. And even now, as the domestic violence charges linger, he is facing new allegations of witness tampering, witness intimidation, and violation of an existing no-contact order.
Considering Leroy Hill’s plethora of legal problems, several Seahawks fans did not expect – or want – him to be Seattle’s starting linebacker in 2010.
The emergence of David Hawthorne eased any concerns about Hill’s absence, but what happened to the most talented linebacker in Seattle? Have we witnessed the rise and fall of Leroy Hill?
Hill is already suspended for the first week of the regular season for his legal troubles. But now he is facing another injury that will keep him out for most of the preseason.
Last week, Hill suffered a knee injury. While originally thought to be only a minor tweak, it turns out the injured knee will keep him inactive for weeks.
Leroy Hill seems to be constantly facing one setback after another. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, Hill’s setbacks have prevented him from contributing as the best linebacker on the team.