FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The last time TCU quarterback Kenny Hill faced Arkansas, his performance was a microcosm of his career up to now: a roller coaster.
Hill faced the Razorbacks on Sept. 27, 2014, as an up-and-coming Texas A&M phenom generating Heisman hype. Back then, he was better known as “Kenny Trill” and following in the footsteps of Johnny Manziel. Hill was a flashy dual-threat quarterback basking in the spotlight.
Hill’s fame grew with A&M’s 35-28 overtime win against the Hogs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. But he was far from perfect that day. He completed about half of his passes, going 21 of 41. Hill was intercepted by Carroll Washington midway through the fourth quarter, but Arkansas could not close out the then-No. 6 Aggies.
Hill rallied Texas A&M from a 14-point deficit with 2 fourth-quarter touchdown passes and another in overtime. The Aggies were 5-0, and “Kenny Trill” was a hero in College Station for another week.
Then, as quickly as Hill had risen to fame, it all came to a screeching halt. Texas A&M lost its next three games, Hill was benched, later suspended for two games and sought a transfer by the end of the season.
Now a junior at TCU, Hill threw for 439 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in a season-opening 59-41 win against South Dakota State last Saturday. He added 3 rushing touchdowns, proving he still has the running ability that made him difficult to defend at A&M. He’s set to face the Razorbacks at 7:05 p.m. (ET) in Fort Worth, Texas.
“He just changed jerseys,” Arkansas senior defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. said. “He’s still the same guy. To me, he’s the same guy. He throws the ball and likes to scramble. He’s a dual-threat quarterback. You can’t just rush him. You have got to keep him in the pocket because he can run.”
While Hill may appear to be the same guy on the field, his teammates and coaches insist he’s matured off it. TCU coach Gary Patterson called Hill a “great student” who had “done everything right” since arriving in the summer of 2015.
“It was crazy, blowing up overnight like that,” Hill recently told The Washington Post. “It’s something like you always dream of and you always want, but at the same time, I wasn’t really ready for it yet.”
The question remains if Hill is ready now. Last Saturday, he wasn’t totally rid of the issues that got him benched at Texas A&M. He was intercepted on consecutive throws in the second quarter against South Dakota State, turning a 7-3 lead into a 17-7 deficit. He also reportedly smiled after his second interception, irking his coach.
“I told him it wasn’t that funny,” Patterson said.
Hill said of the smile: “I mean, I was just trying to let everyone know that, hey, man, I got you, I’m not going to make any more mistakes.”
The Razorbacks will have to wait until Saturday to see which Hill shows up. History suggests he’ll either keep Arkansas in the game or take the Hogs out. And he may even crack a smile.