Catching Up with Tony Hill

The Ranch Report sits down with one of the all-time Dallas Cowboys greats.

During his decade-long run in Dallas as a wide receiver for America's Team, Tony Hill was regarded as one of the most consistent pass catchers in the NFL.

Hill played in one Super Bowl and three Pro Bowls during his time in Big D, hanging up his spikes for good after the 1986 season, after leading the team in receiving an impressive eight times. Since then, he has continued to follow his former team, and "Thrill," as he was nicknamed early in his career, still has some strong opinions about such things as Texas Stadium, Tom Landry and his experiences in the NFL.

Hill remained in the area after retiring and now works for the City of Allen. Recently, The Ranch Report caught up with him to get his thoughts on a variety of topics:

The Ranch Report: How do you look back on your time as a Cowboy?
Hill: My time with the Cowboys, I'd have to say it was outstanding and a dream come true. Being a young kid and having an opportunity to play with my idol like Roger Staubach and to have teammates like Drew Pearson, it was a dream come true. The way I look at it is as an outstanding blessing that was put upon me.

The Ranch Report: What are your feelings last season being the last one at Texas Stadium?
Hill: Well, my thoughts are that all things must change in time. There will be a lot of fond memories there and I must admit that those are memories that will never be lost. But it will be different to envision the Cowboys playing in a different stadium. The Cowboys of today have a new facility and something to look forward to as well.

The Ranch Report: What would be your all-time favorite memory as a Dallas Cowboy?
Hill: There's no question, the comeback game, the 35-34 game against the Washington Redskins (in 1979 at RFK Stadium) was a big game in terms of the impact that it had as a whole. As far as outstanding games, there was the game against the Philadelphia Eagles where I had 213 receiving yards and we lost. That was a great accomplishment but we lost. I'd have to really sit down and think about all the memories but that one certainly stands out along with playing in Texas Stadium and playing on Thanksgiving Day like the Bears game when were down when Glenn Carano came in. We were roommates when I was a rookie and that was his first opportunity. He was kind of struggling, hit me with a big pass and it just changed the whole demeanor of the whole team. Those are fond memories that I have.

The Ranch Report: Talk about playing for Coach Landry and the impact he had on you…
Hill: Well, the unfortunate thing about Coach Landry is that the impact he had on me was later on in life. It was like a father-son relationship when I say the impact is like when you tell your kids that they will appreciate what you tell them when they're older. Coach Landry was a coach that lived by convictions and he stood by his word. I think if there's anything that I took from the game, it was Coach Landry's approach to the game and approach to life. Being a dedicated Christian, that definitely had a huge impact on my life.

The Ranch Report: What was it like playing in your only Super Bowl as a rookie?
Hill: That was a really peculiar situation because when I was at Stanford, we had several opportunities to play in bowl games but I had never played in one except for the all-star games. At Stanford, we had finals during bowl games and we had been invited to a couple but I was always very disappointed. All of a sudden, I played for the Dallas Cowboys and saw very limited action (as a rookie). I ended up returning punts in the playoffs after Butch Johnson got hurt in the last game of the season. I had an opportunity to return punts the last game of the season and received the game ball for that game. So we ended up playing the Bears, then Minnesota and Denver in the Super Bowl. Denver was the game that I got the game ball in.

So going into the Super Bowl, I thought that here was an opportunity for me to really show the public how I could truly play and that my impact would be in the Super Bowl. I was thinking that here is my chance to get an MVP or to play a huge role in the game by returning punts. As you may recall, in the first punt of the game, I fumbled on the three-yard line. It was a miracle how I recovered the ball but we were on the three-yard line on our first offensive series. So there are a lot of fond memories of getting out of that and winning the Super Bowl. Of course, now I have my name attached to that. In that game, Coach Landry said that I had a tremendous amount of guts for lack of a better term because I didn't let it faze me and of course, next year, my career moved on.

The Ranch Report: How did it feel to spend your entire career as a Cowboy?
Hill: It was great. I think I was really fortunate from that perspective. I think the Cowboys set the tone and I still do. I think teams still look at us from a strategic standpoint. The Cowboys are America's Team no matter what anybody says because everybody tries to pattern themselves after us and what we've done. I think every game we played was a dogfight during our era because everyone always wanted to beat the Cowboys because we were a good team and also because we were America's Team and there was more incentive to beat us. So we always had teams giving us their best effort. I think that made us stronger players, better players and more in tune players, players that paid more attention to detail than I think there have been in the past.

The Ranch Report: What are your thoughts on the new stadium?
Hill: I think it's going to be awesome. I'm disappointed that it's not in downtown Dallas I must admit. I say that with nothing against Arlington by any means but I would have loved to have seen it in downtown Dallas maybe for my own selfish reasons that it would be closer for me to drive to. But the stadium is located in a wonderful area and it sticks out like our Super Bowl rings, it's a wonderful facility.

The Ranch Report: Do you wear your Super Bowl ring often?
Hill: I wear it on occasions but I keep it put up. But I do wear it to significant moments and might wear it Saturday night to the last game (at Texas Stadium).

The Ranch Report: Your son, Anthony is now playing basketball at Colgate. What's that like for you?
Hill: He did play football but he got hurt. He actually broke his foot in high school. In ninth and 10th grade, he was a stellar running back and then, he went to wide receiver his junior year and that's when he broke his foot. Then, he put all of his attention into basketball. He's an outstanding athlete. I've been really blessed. My oldest daughter was a basketball player. I have four kids, three girls and a boy. My middle daughter played basketball at Southwestern University and my youngest daughter played soccer at Iowa State. She just graduated this year and my son is at Colgate playing basketball up there as we speak. He's playing about 20 minutes a game trying to get into things. I think he was expecting to start and I think eventually, he will. He's having a great career and I expect great things out of him. He's a heck of an athlete. He's going to an outstanding academic school and it's just a great opportunity for him.

The Ranch Report: How much are you looking forward to seeing him when Colgate plays TCU late in 2008?
Hill: They play TCU and UTSA. I'm looking forward to coming down there. He's averaging about five points a game and like any freshman, he has had success his whole career because he's been playing varsity basketball since he was a freshman at 13 or 14-years-old. He's a little disappointed that he's not starting but he's getting significant minutes and I think he's really excited to get back. A month ago, they had snow in upstate New York and I think he told me that one day it was two below. He's really appreciating Texas and he is missing Texas and his family. That's always good. I don't want him to miss it too much but that's one the things we're seeing a strong appreciation for as parents.

The Ranch Report: Can you tell us the story about how you got the nickname ‘Thrill'?
Hill: Well, it was a pretty bush-league move that I made. I was getting little action my rookie year. I was getting zero action to be honest with you and I was really disappointed. You have to remember that when I came there, I had the intention of starting. I didn't come there to make the club, I came there to start. Of course with Coach Landry, at that point in time, rookies didn't start. As a matter of fact, (Tony) Dorsett didn't start until his sixth or seventh game of the season because we only played 12 games at that time and he won the Heisman Trophy and was our first-round draft pick. We were in practice and I was killing our defensive backs but I wasn't getting any respect. I was the youngest guy in the NFL and you have to say it was a bush and immature move but it turned out to be one of my better moves. I put on my socks, ‘Let Hill Give You a Thrill on the Field.' I wrote that on my socks to get some attention and the guys started cracking up. I admit it was a bush move but then Thomas Henderson said, ‘Oh, there's Thrill.' He's the one that emphasized it by saying, ‘Look at the rookie. He's Thrill.' It just kind of went from there and then I gave the old ‘Thrill Hill, Shoot to Kill, Never Miss and Never Will' and after that, it was all she wrote.

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