Will Hill be ag­gres­sive? You can count on it

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - STEVE MIL­TON

Will Hill says that he won’t change a sin­gle thing in his play­ing style … be­tween the whis­tles.

Af­ter the whis­tle? Well, he says he’s learned from what he de­scribes as an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­take.

The first-year Hamil­ton Ti­cat, who will start at SAM line­backer at home Thurs­day night against the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos, re­turned to prac­tice Mon­day from a onegame sus­pen­sion for grab­bing an of­fi­cial by the jersey dur­ing a loss to the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers in Regina 10 days ago.

He was also fined for punch­ing a Rider.

Head coach Kent Austin said last week that Hill had in­deed made a grave er­ror, but had “owned” it, without ex­cuses, and re­turns with a clean slate.

“I learned a les­son from this; how to re­act on the field and off the field, too,” Hill told The Spec­ta­tor on Mon­day. “Just to think about the team, think about the play­ers, and not just about my­self.

“I’m not go­ing to change the way I play. I told the com­mis­sioner, I told the coach, I told ev­ery­body. I even apol­o­gized to my team­mates for my ac­tions on the field and they said they un­der­stand. I told them I don’t need you to un­der­stand I need you to over­stand, be­cause that’s not me, and that’s not the way I carry my­self on the field. I do carry my­self with ag­gres­sion, but not af­ter the whis­tle and not with the refs.”

In the first two games of the sea­son Hill, who was con­sis­tently around the ball, had the best cu­mu­la­tive stats of any Ti­cat.

He made 10 de­fen­sive tack­les, recorded a sack and three quar­ter­back pres­sures and, against Toronto, blocked two field goals.

He was clearly missed — es­pe­cially in the sec­ond half — dur­ing Satur­day’s home-opener loss to the B.C. Lions which sen­tenced the Ti­cats to an Oh-Oh-and-three start.

Hill’s style is the kind which has al­ways been at­trac­tive to a wide vein of Ti­cat fans, dat­ing back to the blue-col­lar teams of the 1950s. Hard, an­gry, hit­ters who caught your at­ten­tion, and that of the op­po­si­tion.

In­deed, Hill says that part of his modus operandi is to have the re­ceivers he’s cover­ing be aware of him 60 min­utes per game.

“I don’t re­ally say too much off the field, but I have a lot of pent-up anger and ag­gres­sion,” says the soft-spo­ken 27year-old from West Orange, N.J. “This sport is the only sport in which you can phys­i­cally, and le­gally, mess some­one up.

“I use that to my ad­van­tage. So, it may feel like ‘he’s wild and un­con­trol­lable’ but, other than that last in­ci­dent, I’m usu­ally con­trolled in my tem­per­a­ment. I play ag­gres­sively be­tween the whis­tles and af­ter that, even if some­body gets me, I’m just go­ing to come back the next play.”

Hill says he was an­gry be­cause he’d been “un­der­cut” (hit in his legs, left vul­ner­a­ble while jump­ing) on the Rid­ers’ field-goal at­tempts.

And, prior to grab­bing the of­fi­cial, the of­fi­cial had grasped him.

But he’s not us­ing ei­ther as an ex­cuse for his re­ac­tion which he, like Austin, de­scribed as un­ac­cept­able.

“I see us as war­riors,” he says. “If you look at the CFL logo or the NFL logo it’s a shield.

“That’s a gla­di­a­tor’s shield, and they go out there and fight,” Hill added.

“In that mo­ment, I saw red. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do to touch a ref, and I told coach that, that I messed up.”

One pos­i­tive of not be­ing al­lowed to prac­tice last week was that when his five-month old son — Will Hill IV, who’s with him here — suf­fered an al­ler­gic food re­ac­tion, he was able to be there with him. That was the fam­ily mat­ter the team re­ferred to when he wasn’t around the sta­dium on the first day of prac­tice last week.

When he ar­rived at Tim Hor­tons Field the fol­low­ing day he was dev­as­tated to find out that CFL pol­icy pre­vented him from even at­tend­ing team meet­ings.

“That was the hard­est part,” he said. “It was a lit­tle dag­ger to me be­cause I couldn’t even be there men­tally, and pick my team­mates’ brains, or have men­tal prac­tice to stay up on my game.

“I’m just ready to get back. I know we had our open­ing home game here a cou­ple of days ago. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but this is my open­ing home game.

“And I will play like it.”

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