After a journey including three NFL cities and even a couple of continents, Shaun Hill's career has now come full circle. Hill is in his 14th NFL season, ironically playing for the same team he started with back in 2002. Hill joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and filled the third-string quarterback roster spot, later playing his first snaps for Minnesota during the 2005 season. Since then, Hill spent time with San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis before returning to the Vikings in 2015.
Veteran presence and leadership is invaluable in an NFL locker room, and Hill has been that and more for his Vikings teammates, especially second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. On Dec. 27, Hill took the field in victory formation as the Vikings defeated the Giants 49-17 to clinch a playoff berth. Hill is thrilled to be back with Minnesota during such an exciting time, and he works hard in whatever role he can best serve the team.
Q: After starting with the Vikings back in 2002, what's it like to have come full circle and be on the 2015 roster?
A: It's good to be back. I always enjoyed my time here; I love this city, and it's a great place to live. Coming back, it's a great organization. If you take a look at everything as a whole, the locker room is great, the coaching staff is great – just the organization itself from ownership on down, it's a great situation and a great place to be. I'm very pleased to be back.
Q: Besides the personnel differences, do you notice a difference between being here in 2002 and being here now?
A: Yeah, it's different for sure. But so am I – I'm in a totally different place than I was my first time here, so I don't know which one has changed more.
Q: You were in victory formation when the Vikings clinched a playoff spot. What is it like to be a part of this team entering the playoffs?
A: It's very exciting. It's kind of like playing a video game, when you reach that first level and then suddenly you have a brand new set of goals – I'm not a video gamer – but, you know, we've reached that level. All that did was unlock a whole new set of goals for us.
Q: What have you observed in Teddy Bridgewater that reflects the type of QB he is now and will develop into?
A: The first thing I noticed, and I noticed this very early on, was just how talented he is as a passer. He has a good arm and can make all those throws, but he can play with touch better than a lot of people can. He just knows how to complete the ball – to make any type of throw, to change the arm angle, change velocity on the ball, those things. I'm just very impressed by that. He's been able to soak up information, just as far as the offense goes – knowing protections, things like that. That's something I've really noticed in the past couple months, just how far along he's come in protections, which is exceptional for a second-year player.
Q: You've worked with programs like the Children's Fund and the Muscular Dystrophy Association; what really drives you with that off-field work?
A: Well, I do a lot of stuff behind the scenes to be honest with you, especially back home. I'm from a small town in Kansas, and I come from a family of educators. I find a lot of value in having athletics and extracurricular activities [in school], so a lot of my focus has been on making sure those programs weren't cut, that the schools in my town were still able to provide books and do everything they needed to do educationally while also keeping all their extracurricular activities. That's some stuff that's really driven me lately, in addition to getting more youth involved in sports – I think that's very important. Our goal has been to not have any kid in town ever not play sports because of financial issues. Those have been my focus, and it's been good. I'm very fortunate to be in a situation where I can do that.
Q: I know during your first time with the Vikings, you kept a journal for fans to document your time in Europe. Is writing something you enjoy, maybe a post-football career for you?
A: (laughing) No, it's really not. I'm sure you could critique a lot of my grammar. Some of my time in NFL Europe I did a blog for the website here, just kind of kept everybody up on what we were doing over there. That was a great experience, though, and something I really wish they still had. It was a great experience for me at that time in my career, and I think it would be incredibly valuable for a lot of young players. There's no developmental league for the NFL, and it's sad that they got rid of it.
Q: With playing four different sports in high school, when did you know football would be the career sport?
A: Parents of young kids will ask me, 'Hey – when did you know you were going to focus on football?' My answer is, 'When I was 18 years old.' It was the second semester of my senior year of high school – that's when I knew. People will say their 7-year-old really likes this [sport], but they think the child will be good at this [sport], and I'll say, 'You don't know – he's 7.' There's no reason to push a kid in one direction at one point in time. I think there's a lot of value in playing multiple sports. […] I understand it's different in big cities than it is in small towns, but growing up in a small town that's what I was able to do.
Q: Who was your favorite football player growing up?
A: There were a lot of them, to be honest. I was always just a fan of offense in general. I would just watch games and loved to see good offensive performances. My high school mascot was the Vikings, and the [Minnesota] Vikings had a great offense at the time, so I certainly watched the Vikings when I could. Joe Montana came to the Chiefs, so that was an exciting time for us down there, and I enjoyed watching [John] Elway with the Broncos. So even though they were rivals, I still just enjoyed good offensive football.