Packers coach Mike Sherman, whose draft history has been a bit sketchy, admits regret at releasing Hillenmeyer. Hillenmeyer had made the team, in part due to a four-game suspension to Torrance Marshall. But when Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver were injured early in the 2003 season, the Packers signed Antonio Freeman. To make room on the roster, Hillenmeyer was released.
"Yeah, I regret that (releasing Hillenmeyer)," Sherman said. "I think he is a very good player. I wish he was on our team. I like him a lot, but we were in a situation where we lost a bevy of wide receivers in the Minnesota game. We had to make a roster move and went another direction because of special teams."
Sherman tried signing Hillenmeyer to the Packers' practice squad but Hillenmeyer joined the Bears instead. The leading tackler in college football during his senior season at Vanderbilt, the Packers' loss has been the Bears' gain.
"Hunter has played a few different positions for us, and he's played well," said Bears head coach Lovie Smith. "He's a smart player. He has good but not great ability, but we like him a lot. He's helped us out a lot, and hopefully, getting Urlacher back next year will lock (Hillenmeyer) into one position."
"I went from Sam (strong side) to Mike (middle), to Sam, to Mike. So if I'm not used to the transition yet, there's something wrong. Obviously, it's never going to be easy to come in for a guy that's as talented as Brian is, but it's not a new situation," Hillenmeyer said of moving back to the middle to replace Urlacher.
Hillenmeyer, one of the smartest players in the 2003 draft with a 3.8 grade-point average with a double major, had two tackles in the Week 2 matchup at Lambeau Field.