Q&A: Nick Hill, New Packers QB

It's been a great start to the year for new Packers quarterback Nick Hill. How did he wind up in Green Bay? What does he have to say about Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers? And whose words provided some motivation after toiling in arena football for three years?

How are things going?

They're going good. Can't complain. It's been a good start to the new year. I got married and then got signed by Green Bay, so no complaints here.

So you got signed by the Packers on a Friday and had your wedding reception that weekend?

We got married in Jamaica on the 7th (of January) and we came back to the States and had our reception back in Illinois last weekend (Jan. 21-22).

That's a pretty good weekend.

Yeah, no kidding!

What have you been up to, besides all of that?

We live here in Orlando because that's where I played the past two seasons (in the Arena Football League) and my wife teaches school down here, so we stayed here during the offseason. I work a little bit — I coach high school football down here, and playing Arena Football, you've got to work because you don't make very much money, so I work for a retail energy brokerage company out of Chicago that I can work from home doing. So, I do that and work out and stay in shape and go to the high school that I coached at in the afternoons and stay involved with them.

How on earth did you get hooked up with the Packers? I know you had a workout with them, but that was way back in 2010.

Yeah, about a year ago, I had a workout but that was for last year's offseason but there wasn't one with the lockout. So, I played again (with Orlando) and had another pretty good season. (The Packers) stayed in contact with me and said they were still interested in bringing me back for this offseason. It probably worked out better this year than last year because it seems like Matt Flynn is probably going to be gone. I got cut from the Bears in ‘08 and spent three years in the Arena League trying for another opportunity, so any opportunity is a good one.

I heard an interview that you did where you referenced Carl Mauck. Could you talk about him and how he played a role in you landing here?

Actually, when you beeped in, I was on the phone with Coach Mauck. I talk to him a couple times a week. He played center in the NFL for 13, 14 seasons and he coached in the NFL for over 10 years as an offensive line coach. When he was done coaching with the Chargers (after the 2005 season), he came to Southern Illinois, where he went to school, and he volunteered and coached there for two years and those were the two years that I started. We became close and he likes to hunt and fish and I take him fishing. We just became friends, really. His connections are second to none. I didn't even have an agent and Coach Mauck's kind of acted like one for me and made calls on my behalf. He believed that I could play. He's been there and seen the kind of players that deserved to be there. He has a relationship with Ted Thompson (they played together for the Houston Oilers) and he agreed to bring me up and it kind of went from there. So, I owe a lot to Coach Mauck.

Between the Bears in 2008 and your workout here, did you get any other opportunities in the NFL?

When I got cut by the Bears, the Colts brought me in during that season for a workout, but since then, I played in the Arena League and had some success.

Considering how long it had been since your shot with the Bears, was there any point where you thought the NFL just wasn't going to work out for you?

Yeah. Obviously, you'd be lying if you didn't think like you might not get a shot. That's the reason why you keep playing and hoping. Really, I'm still young enough to hope that it could happen. Getting that workout last year, the workout went really well and Ted Thompson told me that he wouldn't give it up yet and he thought that I could play and to give it a couple more years. I'm enjoying playing and I had fun playing Arena Football. You get to travel around. They pay for your housing and I get to live in Orlando, so I was having a good time, but it definitely creeps into your mind. It's definitely the dream of every Arena player to get another shot. I'm thankful to have that opportunity.

When Ted said that, I'm guessing that gave you a lift.

Yeah, definitely. I came back motivated to keep on going and hopeful that somebody would give me a shot. You've got to keep playing and keep working. Not many Arena quarterbacks have made it out, but obviously the one that everybody knows is Kurt Warner. You look at those successful stories and hope that maybe one day it could be you.

Is Kurt Warner's story something that you followed closely?

Definitely. He went to Northern Iowa and I went to Southern Illinois, so we were in the same conference in college and had similar stories. He got a chance, got cut and had to go play Arena Football. So, our stories are similar as far as we played the same amount of years in the Arena League and he had to work other jobs. Obviously, you're drawn to find out the story. It gives you inspiration that all you need is an opportunity. He got an opportunity and obviously he turned it into a pretty good career, to say the least. All I want is an opportunity and I'm glad that I'm going to have that opportunity to prove that I deserve to be there.

Obviously, Arena and the NFL are different games, but I guess the one similarity is that you really need to be able to thread the ball into tight windows. In that way, you should be pretty well prepared for this.

There are differences, obviously. You've got to make different throws and the run game and checking plays and all of that, but there's definitely things that I feel like will help me transitioning into the NFL, like getting the ball out quick. There's no time to waste in the Arena League. Every drive's a pressure drive and you're expected to score on every drive. There's little windows. There's no room for error or you're going to get picked off. It's timing and anticipation. Reading some of the things that Kurt Warner said, once he got back outside, he felt like he had an extra second to get rid of the ball because in the Arena League everything happens so fast. Hopefully, I'll experience the same thing.

How much are you looking forward to working with Aaron Rodgers?

I couldn't be more excited. He's been my favorite player the last three or four years. He's the best player in the NFL. Just getting the opportunity to learn from him — I want to be a coach when things are all said and done, so the opportunity to sit with him in the film room and watching him study and prepare ... and same thing with Mike McCarthy. He's pretty much a quarterback guru. Just the things I can soak up and learn, they're going to have to kick me out of the building because I'm going to be there all the time.

Could you have imagined all of this? Just thinking back to your whole career, when you decided to play college basketball at Western Kentucky before transferring to Southern Illinois to play football, and then being out of the NFL loop for so long. Now, here you are.

Not really. I definitely don't take it for granted. I know a lot of people hope and pray that they can get a shot in the NFL. It's hard to believe that I can say I've signed with the Green Bay Packers. I'm definitely not going to settle for just being there. I kind of did that with the Bears — I'd been in the offseason, OTAs, went to training camp. I want to compete and make the team. That's what I want to do. I'm going to go up there and definitely give them a reason to believe in me and play well. Sometimes, though, you definitely have to pinch yourself. I'm very thankful for being there so I don't want it to last for just a few months. I want to be there for a long time.

Pretty confident that's going to happen?

Definitely. If you don't have confidence in yourself at this level — I think that's what's going to help me out. I don't have anything to lose. I've been playing Arena Football for three years and had fun, but this is what it's all about. I played Arena2 football when the (Arena) League went down in 2009. I played in Texas, and we'd go all over the country and sometimes it would be 14-, 15-hour bus rides to go play in front of a 1,000 fans. To say that I'm on the Green Bay Packers from that, I'm going to give them reason to believe in me and work hard. I have full confidence in myself that I'm good enough to play.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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