Two years when Jacksonville, Fla.-First Coast High School wide receiver Amp Hill reported as a true freshman at LSU, the 6-3, 198-pound blue chipper looked as if he was the second coming of Michael Clayton.
Hill lived up the hype dazzling the coaching staff in practice and had the crowd at fan day “amp”ed up with an array of one-handed catches. But the promising young talent suffered a debilitating knee injury as the team prepped for the season opener and has never been the same.
Hill has spent the last two years rehabilitating a surgically reconstructed knee that resulted in severe muscle atrophy in his right leg.
“I have had three surgeries on the (right) knee,” Hill said. “All three surgeries came from the same injury. My original prognosis from the doctor was two years because me knee was basically torn in two places or ligaments (ACL, PCL). He said it would take me a while to battle back.”
And a while it has. Hill played in three games sparingly a year ago and did not record any statistics. The most frustrating thing for Hill was sitting out the 2003 season, a year in which the Tigers won the national championship.
“It was pretty frustrating at first just because knowing the situation and opportunities I had coming in as a freshman,” Hill said. “When I came in, I did pretty well in two-a-days before I hurt my knee. I left like with the way I was playing that August, I knew I was definitely going to be in the rotation, I don’t know exactly where or what spot that would be, but I did feel like I was going to play as a true freshman.”
Hill’s frustration grew into patience and it is now beginning to pay off.
“As I grew older through these two years, I decided I was just going to work through it and be patient because there was nothing really I could do about it,” Hill said. “I knew I just had to work hard to get healthy and try and get back out there when I could.”
Hill said the problem hasn’t been with his knee, but more with the muscles around it. The inactivity of his right leg led to the tissue to weaken.
“I focused mainly in the rehab room on working with my quad and getting that, my calf muscle and my hamstring stronger,” he said. “My knee was better after the surgery, but my leg just lacked the strength and it took a while to get that back.”
And Hill’s goal? The sophomore is shooting to get back to where he was a true freshman.
“Everything I try and do, I am trying to get back to where I was when I got here,” Hill said. “I knew the situation I was in then, then I got hurt, so now I am just trying to strive hard to get back to that position more and more each day.”
This spring, new coach Les Miles praised Hill in the strides he has made in terms of returning to top form.
“Offensively, we know we are talented at a number of different spots,” Miles said. “I think probably the single most improvement was made by Amp Hill. When he started off, he was still not necessarily playing like he would like to play. He played extremely well as the spring went on. Hopefully, that is the start of his return to health as he pursues the field.”
Hill said it just felt good to be back on the field, in Tiger Stadium, and seeing live action.
“It was great to be back out there. I knew starting the spring my knee felt a lot better than it did last year,” he said. “I felt like I was going to have a good spring. I didn’t try and force anything and didn’t really set any goals. I just worked week to week to try and get better. Every week it seemed like I improved more and more.”
Hill notched a touchdown grab in the Tigers’ final spring scrimmage and logged four catches for 80 yards, highlighted by the 28-yard scoring reception.
“I tried to come out today and knowing that we had a crowd watching, I always seem to perform better in front of people,” Hill said. “I tried to come out today, have a good time, enjoy myself and do my best and have a good scrimmage and finish off the spring good.”
During his long period of rehab, Hill said he dedicated himself to focusing on his schoolwork along with getting his right leg healthy. Now football is bagain a possibility and Hill is ecstatic.
“It feels great,” Hill said of being back to 100-percent. “I came to Baton Rouge on the sole purpose of playing football and to get a good education. Now that football is back in the picture now, I feel great about it.”