Draft Day 1: Hill thrilled and 49ers gushing

WASHINGTON STATE receiver Jason Hill's birthday was two months ago, but the biggest present of his life was handed to him Saturday in the third round of the NFL draft by the team he grew up rooting for. "It means a ton," he said matter-of-factly about being taken with the 76th pick overall by his hometown San Francisco 49ers.

Hill was a multi-sport standout -- and 2002 runner-up for City Player of the Year -- at San Francisco's Sacred Heart Catherdral Prep before coming to WSU in 2003.

His heart, though, has never been far from home. The eldest of six children, he's worked hard to help his mother Laverne by serving as a surrogate father to his two younger brothers and three sisters, since their dad died three years ago.

Now Hill gets to live in the same town again. And he'll have a few dollars in his pocket as well. High third-round draft picks can be expected to make around $1 million per year.

"Playing in front of my family, I seem to play well," Hill said in a telephone interview from the Bay Area. "Some of my biggest games have come in front of my family ... the Colorado game, the Cal game last year at Cal, the Idaho game when I had three catches and three touchdowns. I tend to play better in front of my family so coming here (San Francisco) is great."


Hill, a Jerry Rice "fanatic" as a kid, says he's ready to play on Sundays and has high expectations. "I talked to (assistant) coach (Jerry) Sullivan and he let me know it is an open competition. I told him all I am going to do is perform, not like a third round pick, but like a top 10 pick."

Hill was the 12th player taken in the third round Saturday, as well as the 12th of 15 receivers taken in the first three rounds.

The 49ers, on their offical website, gushed about Hill:

"Even though Southern California's heralded duo of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith receive most of the press, if you ask any Pac-10 Conference defensive coordinator or defensive back which receiver they fear in most, they all say in unison one name – Jason Hill," the Niners wrote. "To truly appreciate Hill's big-play ability, one has to read further into his statistics. Since taking over split end duties, he caught 158 passes in 31 games. 111 of those receptions were good for first downs, as he converted 42 third-down plays and one more on fourth down."

The 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver reeled in a school-record 32 touchdown passes in his four year career at Washington State. In 2004, Hill set a school record for most touchdown receptions in a season with 12 -- a record he broke the following year when he brought 13 passes to pay-dirt.

Hill burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2003, registering 12 tackles on special teams and blocking a punt. He became a fixture on offense with a breakout sophomore season, and was a team captain last season.

After his monstrous, 62-catch 2005 season, Hill considered coming out early for the NFL draft but returned to WSU in hopes of improving his draft stock and leaving the school as "the best receiver ever to play at WSU."

Unable to play in the final two regular season games due to a leg injury, Hill ended the 2006 season with 41 catches for 600 yards and seven touchdowns.

He made his case for the NFL in convincing fashion with a solid Senior Bowl performance, and then a sizzling effort at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he ran a 4.32 in the 40.

Hill's time was second among receivers there, and only two hundredths of a second behind Yamon Figurs of Kansas State.

Hill will join a receivers' corps in San Francisco that includes starters Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie, both relatively young and unproven. The man throwing the ball will be former Utah star Alex Smith, with veteran Trent Dilfer backing him up.

Fans wanting to see Hill in action might want to mark their calendars for November 12, as the 49ers travel to Seattle to battle the Seahawks in a Monday Night Football match up between the two division foes.

The final four rounds of the draft conclude Sunday, with several Cougars -- including Eric Frampton, Charles Harris and Mkristo Bruce -- hoping to have their names called.


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