The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rookie Grew Up Before His Time

By Tom FitzGerald, San Francisco Chronicle

This is quite a time for an avid 49ers' fan named Jason Hill. He grew up in San Francisco idolizing wide receivers Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Terrell Owens. "When I was playing sandlot football, I'd act like I was Jerry Rice," Hill said.
The vast majority of such kids get to do that only in their dreams, but Hill can do the act these days in a 49ers uniform. A third-round draft choice from Washington State, he's vying to make the team. It might depend on whether the 49ers carry five wide receivers or six. Hill, 22, is mature beyond his years, mainly because of a difficult family life. His father, who was rendered a paraplegic in a random shooting many years ago, and his mother were divorced. His mother, despite a variety of health problems, held down several jobs to support the family of six children; she had a heart attack last year.

"He grew up in public housing, surrounded by violence," a friend of the family said. "But he had extraordinary focus from the time he was a child, which Laverne nurtured. When his public school curriculum was not challenging enough, she intervened. She was a full-time lobbyist for her child. She had no money but tons of heart and lots of smarts." His father "was out of picture," the friend said. "Jason had a reconciliation with him a year or so before he died (during Jason's freshman year at Washington State)." In the meantime, Jason was helping mentor his younger siblings.

"He's been the head of the household since high school," Washington State coach Bill Doba said. "He had to make the funeral arrangements."

Coming from Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, he was recruited by Cal and USC among others, but he confounded them - and probably friends and relatives - when he chose instead to go to Pullman, Wash.

"I was looking for something different," he said. "It was a small-college town. It was big time in a small place, and it fit me."

Texas-El Paso coach Mike Price, WSU's head coach at the time, says, "It was the funniest thing when we were recruiting him. He lived in San Francisco, but really in a tiny environment next to that school. He walked to school. He was so sheltered, living in that environment. It wasn't like he was a city kid. He was a small-town kid trapped in a city." Price left after Hill's freshman year, but under Doba and receivers coach Mike Levenseller, Hill's college career soared. He smashed the school touchdown catch record with 32 (the old record was 22) and the receiving yardage mark with 2,704 (the old was 2,452). Only Dwayne Jarrett of USC, with 41, , has had more TD catches in Pac-10 history.

"He was the model student-athlete," Doba said. "He came in with a purpose. He was the leading tackler on the punt team as a freshman. He graduated in 31/2 years. He's a hell of a kid."
His greatest game came in Berkeley in 2005. Cal led the Cougars 28-10 at halftime, but Hill caught three TD passes from Alex Brink - for 38, 62 and 38 yards - all in the third quarter. He had six catches for 240 yards.

"He had to beg, borrow or steal 20 or 30 tickets to take care of family and friends," Doba said.
Hill was delighted to have his family on hand. "I think that's why I played so well," he said. "Other than TV games, my mom didn't get a chance to see me play that year (until then). I wanted to show up well and got lucky."

Unfortunately for Hill, the Bears rallied from a 10-point deficit to win 42-38. "My family definitely let me hear about that," he said. Phil Freed, who coached Hill at Sacred Heart and is now the school's athletic director, said he told NFL people before the draft: "He may not be as imposing in stature as you'd like him to be, but you'll find out soon he's a very competitive player and will be a good representative of your organization." Hill stands 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, so he's big enough. And there's no question about his speed. At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, he whipped through the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds. Only Yamon Figurs of Kansas State (4.30) had a faster time. Figurs went two draft picks earlier to Baltimore.

The 49ers are set with starters Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle, and backups Taylor Jacobs and Ashley Lelie have had strong camps. Brandon Williams, a third-round pick last year, has the advantage of returning punts and kickoffs. Hill could be No. 6, or maybe even No. 5.

"Jason Hill is a guy I'd like to see in our future plans," coach Mike Nolan said. "He's a little bit under the radar now. There's more competition at the wide-receiver positions than we've had in past years. I like what I see in him." Hill is far from satisfied. "I'm making mistakes," he said. "I've just got to get back to making plays all the time. In college, sometimes your athleticism can carry you over. Over here, it's about learning the plays and being consistent."

Before the draft, he even had dinner with Rice, his idol, who stressed "that consistency thing," Hill said. "He said he had his troubles as a rookie, too."

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