DALLAS — In the run-up to Monday’s national championship against Ohio State, Oregon senior cornerback Troy Hill thought he’d heard it all. 

Before moving to Ventura, Calif., at 15, Hill grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, a stronghold of Ohio State fandom (Hill himself said he grew up a Michigan fan, preferring to zig while others zagged). Now he’ll face the Buckeyes, in his career finale, for the title. 

“All my friends are coming to me and talking smack,” Hill said, a smile widening. “That’s going to be big-time right there.”

He was prepared for, and even welcomed, the hometown smack-talk. 

What he wasn’t prepared for was to step off the plane upon the Ducks’ arrival Friday in Dallas, and see his name swirling amid rumors of a possible drug-related suspension.

The rumors arose — the source appears to be an Oregon fan message board — at the same time of speculation that Oregon receiver Darren Carrington had been left home, ineligible, because of a positive drug test.

That turned out to be true. Saturday morning, head coach Mark Helfrich confirmed backup running back and special teams star Ayele Forde also did not make the trip due to a positive drug test.

The Hill rumor, much to the cornerback’s surprise and amusement, is not true.

“I laugh at it,” Hill said. “It’s all rumors. My mom was calling me and I just kinda laughed at it. Like, what? How did my name get in this. Just getting through the trouble I went through they expected me to get in some more. I just took it as motivation like they expect me to get in trouble, they expect me to do something wrong but that’s not me. I’m here to prove that I’m here for a reason and God has a plan in my life. Can’t nobody knock me down right now. That’s how I’m going to take it.”

Hill remains the expected starting cornerback Monday in AT&T Stadium against the Buckeyes (13-1). He has become one of the team’s most pleasant surprises as a senior, with 18 pass breakups — no other Duck has more than nine — and 66 tackles, seventh-most on the team. 

His development from a nickel corner into a second-team All-Pac-12 selection was noticed first in spring practices, and it was not a coincidence. 

Spring ball arrived two months after Hill was welcomed back — after agreeing to meet specific conditions, some behavioral — to the team as a second chance after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of menacing. 

“I think he made a decision over the summer or last spring that he was gonna be a really really good player,” defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. “He was a guy who didn’t say a whole lot and now he’s out there, he’s active, he’s talking, he’s all in and he’s kind of a key component now.”

Thanks to consecutive 100-yard receiving games, Carrington was a key component in Oregon’s (13-1) victories in the Pac-12 title game and playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl. He won’t be part of this week’s final, but Hill believes he deserves to get a second chance, much as he did.

“I’m going to talk with him but Darren’s got a strong mindset,” Hill said. “He’s one of those dudes that’s going to bounce back. He knows what he wants. I’ve got nothing but confidence in him that he’ll bounce back and come back even stronger. Like I said, tough times make tough people so he’ll be strong.”

That’s not to say Hill isn’t getting something out of it, too.

“It’s all rumors,” he said. “I’ll take that as motivation.”

— Andrew Greif
[email protected]
@andrewgreif

– Click Here To Visit Article Source