Holton Hill said he won’t do it again. He will not be suspended again.
One week from starting his eight-week banishment from the NFL, the talented second-year cornerback said in no uncertain terms that the Vikings will be able to count on him beginning Oct. 28 when he returns from two NFL drug suspensions and is eligible to play at Kansas City on Nov. 3.
“Everybody really makes mistakes,” Hill said after Saturday’s preseason victory over Arizona. “Somebody told me 10 percent of your life is what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react. So it’s all up to me from this point forward. The only way I can control my destiny is through me. I’m going to learn from it.”
Hill has made similar statements during a playing career that has showcased first-round talent and buyer-beware baggage.
He spent most of his sophomore season at the University of Texas in Charlie Strong’s doghouse. When Strong was fired and Tom Herman hired, Hill opened his junior season with two pick-sixes and a special teams touchdown in the first two weeks. Seven games later, with his college career soaring, it all ended when Herman reportedly suspended Hill for a failed drug test.
NFL teams were intrigued when Hill declared for the draft. They are always intrigued by long-armed corners who stand 6-2 and push 200 pounds.
When Hill reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the 2018 NFL scouting combine, his stock plummeted. He became cheap, undrafted labor by his own undoing.
The Vikings lured Hill north with a $75,000 signing bonus, a team record for a rookie free agent at the time. Hardly a risky sum, given Hill’s potential.
Hill made the team. He played all 16 games. He started three. He was more than solid as a fifth corner and affordable insurance policy, given the uncertain timetable for Mike Hughes’ return from knee reconstruction and the undetermined futures beyond this season for impending free agents Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.
But sometimes a seemingly unencumbered investment in a player with a poor past leads to an untimely levy on a team’s future. In this case, a Vikings team built to win this season doesn’t have its vaunted depth at cornerback after Hill was hit with a pair of four-game suspensions for violating rules against performance-enhancing drugs in April and illegal substances in July.
Instead, they have been scrambling all summer to find a fourth healthy, trustworthy, experienced corner until Hughes returns. That’s dangerous, considering the fickleness of every cornerback’s legs and the fact the Vikings play mostly nickel and dime packages. They used their base defense for only five of 67 snapsSaturday.
Knowing Hill will be gone for half the season, the Vikings have worked out Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. They signed Bene’ Benwikere. And it’s quite possible that one of the six corners to make the opening-day roster will be a castoff from another team.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Hill stood on the sidelines for all but the final four defensive snaps in the closing seconds. He will probably play more Thursday as coach Mike Zimmer rests every possible player with regular-season value.
“We obviously knew this could happen with Holton,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune last week. “I’m very disappointed, because I felt like we were doing everything we could possibly do to help him. To put him in the right situations. To get him any kind of help he needed.
“And, honestly, he’s not a bad kid. He’s really not a bad kid. He’s not a street guy or a gang guy or anything like that. He’s a good kid. And I think he could have a really good future if he ends up getting to play.”
Hill accepts Zimmer’s disappointment, adding: “I let a lot of people down. My teammates, the fans, my family.”
Asked if the Vikings can still trust him, Hill said: “Always. There’s not a doubt in my mind.”
The only thing left to say is …