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Draft Diaries: Connection for Hill & Boyd Goes Beyond Time with Vikings & Longhorns

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Two phone calls, 364 days apart, have been significant in the early part of Holton Hill's NFL career.

The first came just after the close of the 2018 NFL Draft. Hill had waited patiently through all seven rounds, hoping to be one of that year's selections; when he wasn't, disappointment understandably set in.

But the discouragement was short-lived, thanks to a call from Minnesota. The Vikings wanted to sign Hill as a free agent.

"It was kind of a humbling experience for me; it gave me that extra drive, that extra motivation, to want to prove myself," Hill recently recalled of that weekend.  

One of the first to congratulate Hill on his big day was Texas teammate and fellow cornerback Kris Boyd, who was prepping for his final season with the Longhorns.

Boyd described the surreal feeling of seeing Hill start his NFL journey:

"I'm just sitting there like, 'We were just side by side, and now the dreams, what we grew up talking about our whole life, it's happening.' It was like, 'I want to see my brother do it. He's living his dream, and I'm up next. I can't wait.'

"I was happy to see him [get that chance]," Boyd continued. "Anytime the Vikings were on TV, anytime they were playing, I was in front of the screen. And if he was on the TV, I'm yelling."

The following April, it was Hill who anxiously watched the TV screen, waiting to see which team would grab Boyd in the 2019 NFL Draft.

"I was tuned in. I was most definitely tuned in to that draft. Waiting to see where my boy ended up," Hill said with a smile.

On Day 3, Boyd heard from none other than the Vikings.

He recalled standing by himself in his backyard and talking to Vikings college scout Pat Roberts, who told him Minnesota planned to draft him with the 217th overall pick. After hanging up, he walked back into the house, through a crowd of family members, and stepped up onto the fireplace ledge.

"I just looked up, and the first thing I said was, 'I'm going with Hollywood,' " Boyd said, using Hill's longtime nickname. "Everybody was just so happy. It was an even bigger blessing."

Shortly after Boyd's announcement, it was Hill's phone that started ringing and didn't stop.

"Right after [I got drafted], I'm pretty sure his mom called him, somebody else had just hit him up – "

Hill interrupted Boyd over the Skype call:

"Everybody from [my hometown] was blowing me up. Whoa, Kris is coming to the Vikings!Oooh! And I'm like, 'I know! I know!' "

Many fans know that Hill and Boyd teamed together at Texas, but their friendship started before they shared a locker room.

And they might correct you if you use the word "friendship."

"He's more like my brother, I would say. I don't see it as a friendship," Boyd explained. "It's crazy because it's been like that since we first met."

Added Hill: "From day one."

They met by coincidence as high schoolers, when each registered for regional Nike Football Training Camps. A native of Gilmer, Texas, Boyd planned to attend the Dallas camp; but when he overslept by mistake, he opted to sign up for the Houston camp happening at a later date.

It was there he and Hill met and immediately connected with one another. Boyd had never before been to Houston but told Hill he'd be back.

"He was like, 'All right.' And I know for a moment he didn't believe me … but then I popped up at his house," Boyd laughed. "He had sent me the address, but we were in high school, he wouldn't think anything of it, and then I just popped up outside.

"I called him. I'm like, 'Bro, I'm outside,' " Boyd continued. "He ran out, and I was like, 'I told you I was coming.' "

The rest is history.

"That's about it – that's been my man since day one," Hill said. "Rocking out together since high school, went to Texas together, and now blessed and fortunate enough to be on the same team with him in the NFL."

When Boyd arrived in Minnesota last April, Hill welcomed him at the airport.

A scene they never truly envisioned happened.

"It's crazy," Hill said. "We always talked about it – being in the NFL, having dreams, working hard – back in high school and college. … But I would have never thought that we'd be on the same team in the NFL."

Added Boyd: "The discussion of being on the same NFL team? I promise you we probably only talked about that once or twice," he said.

Hill nodded.

"Yeah, one time."

Boyd and Hill are just two examples of late-round – or undrafted – players the Vikings have added to their roster in recent years who have made an impact.

Boyd played in all 16 games during his rookie campaign, impressing on special teams. Hill has started four of the 24 games he's played over his first two seasons. Both likely will have larger roles in Minnesota's defense this season with the departure of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertain times, one thing is for sure – the cornerback duo will take advantage of each opportunity they're given.

Like they often do, Hill and Boyd shared similar sentiments when asked to give advice for this year's draft prospects.

"Embrace the whole process," Hill said. "Getting your name called, not getting your name called, look at everything as a positive and use it to motivate yourself to go into that next chapter."

"I'd just tell them, 'Please, please enjoy this whole process, no matter what happens,' " Boyd added. "All you really need is an opportunity. … If a team even calls you and gives you the opportunity to come, you show up and you show out. Take advantage of every opportunity you're given. Don't look at the negatives. Always look at the positives, and just be thankful. Because I most definitely was thankful and blessed for every opportunity."

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