Had Hill remained healthy, he likely would have been the team's No. 3 tailback and could have taken some carries from Brian Calhoun and Booker Stanley. But in the fifth practice of the season, Hill fractured his fibula just above his ankle.
"(I) had to get surgery," Hill said. "So I've got a plate in there, a couple screws."
Hill was originally expected to return in mid-October, but he did not practice again until Dec. 10, the second day of UW's bowl workouts. He wore a green jersey, signifying no contact, for his first three bowl practices and began practicing with contact Friday.
"I thought I was going to be back (sooner)," Hill said. "But the injury was really serious so they had to give me a little more time. But I didn't want to rush it really because I'm a freshman still… I still got four years ahead of me. Just get real healthy and I'll be good."
In the little practice time Hill has been afforded with the Badgers he has displayed an impressive combination of vision and strength, with a good burst out of his cuts. Though the injury prevented him from competing this season, Hill takes solace in the fact that, after redshirting, he still has a full college career ahead of him.
"It is difficult," Hill said. "I felt I was going to get some playing time, but then my injury sat me down. It just gave me a lot of time to get physically better, get stronger, get mentally better at the game. So I'll be prepared when I get ready."
Once Hill began his post-surgery rehab, he realized he would need considerable time to recuperate from his injury.
"I didn't want to rush coming back and then create another injury," he said. "… When I was at rehab and stuff it was stiffening up. So I just knew I had to take it easy, take my time."
Now that he is back, Hill is going into bowl practices with the same mindset he took into fall camp: play hard, play his game, show the coaches what he can do. UW's coaching staff was enamored with Hill's play prior to the injury and he hopes to keep that esteem.
"A lot of coaches know what I can do already," Hill said. "So I'm just (keeping) that in their heads that I'm still going to play hard, there's not going to be any difference."
Hill said he has spent time studying his playbook and he does not expect to be far behind mentally. After missing more than four months of practice, however, he has a lot of reps to make up for. Bowl practices are an opportunity for him to play catch-up in that regard and get ready for spring practices.
The fall camp injury was the first serious football injury that Hill has suffered; he said he missed one varsity game in high school after spraining both of his ankles.
Soon after his injury last August, Hill could be seen on the field at Camp Randall Stadium, watching practice with his boot-adorned leg propped up. He would smile at times at a greeting from a teammate, but Hill's countenance was typically melancholy soon after the injury.
"I used to come out and watch the players practice," Hill said. "I was like, ‘I have to be there.' It made it difficult, but I had to think positive, though, because being upset would not fix my problem. Only doing my rehab and what I have to do would fix it. So I just thought positive…
"As time went on I got over it. I got in the weight room a lot, so I got stronger and stuff. I've just been going over a lot of stuff that I couldn't do on the field."