Remarkable Career Winds Down

ORLANDO – As Tye Hill walked off the practice field adjacent to Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium Sunday afternoon, he was tackled by a wave of emotion that he never saw coming.

"It's starting to sink in a little bit," he said. "I'm starting to realize that today is my last practice after all those practices at Clemson. I didn't start to think about it until Coach (Tommy) Bowden started talking after practice then I started getting sad.

"I was just thinking back to the first time when I first got here and my first practice and how it was. But it's all over now."

There still is that one more game Tuesday night against Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl, but it's easy to understand where Hill means.

When thinking about all that he's been through during his career, the red-shirt senior just shakes his head.

He came to Clemson from Woodland High in Dorchester a running back. He was the team's third leading rusher in 2002 with 225 yards on 42 carries, before being switched to cornerback the following season.

In 2003, he started 11 of the team's 13 games and was named the defensive rookie of the year by the coaching staff. A year later, he tied a school record with passes defended with 21.

This season, he's gotten even better and looks to be a first-round NFL draft pick in April. He made several All-American lists and was a finalist for the nation's top defensive back.

"The thing that hasn't changed has been his personality, attitude and his work ethic," Bowden said. "It's been quite a transformation. It's been quite a bit exciting to see it happen, because he really didn't come here as a natural defensive back. We didn't recruit him as defensive back, more of a speed running back and he made the transition.

"He struggled for a little bit just learning, but it's been exciting to see him make progress every year and to see him put himself in a position to be a better draft pick."

Hill even went through changes in defensive coaches, which may have been hardest of all.

"Yeah, I went through a lot of changes," he said. "I went through coaching changes, change of position, but change is good. I welcome change and I welcome any new challenges."

The funny thing is, even so though Hill is better technically speaking as a cornerback, he was often overshadowed by his counterpart and teammate Justin Miller, who received most of the notoriety.

This year, however, Hill was able to stand alone in the spotlight.

It will probably sink in after that game that I won't wear a Clemson uniform ever again. I think during the game, it will be extra special.

"Justin's forte coming out of college I think was punt returner first and a corner second," Bowden said. "I think Tye's a little bit more the other way, probably a corner first and then a returner way, way down the line."

Now all that stands between Hill and millions of dollars are two games, the bowl game Tuesday night and the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

Yes, the remarkable career of Tye Hill at Clemson is just about over.

"It's kind of sad, but at the same time I'm actually looking forward to moving on," he said. "I'm looking forward to the future." Top Stories