Remembering Marquise Hill

By Pierce W. Huff & Mike Triplett
Updated: May 29, 2007

NEW ORLEANS — Former De La Salle football coach Darren Barbier said Marquise Hill told him while in high school that he had a three-year plan for getting to the NFL.

It was no pipe dream, as Hill accomplished that task. After playing three years at LSU, including winning a national championship with the 2003 squad, Hill was taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the New England Patriots in 2004.

It was something that immediately came to mind, Barbier said, when he heard Hill was involved in a personal watercraft accident on Lake Pontchartrain on Sunday night.

Hill’s body was discovered Monday afternoon in the lake.

“It was a complete shock,” said Barbier, who coached Hill in 1999 and 2000 — his junior and senior seasons — at De La Salle. “It’s tough because you get close to the kids.

“I remember when he was in the weight room working hard and trying to get stronger. He had a three-year plan. He would go to college for three years, and then go pro. I would ask him, and he would tell me that was his plan; that’s exactly what he did.

“Not only was he blessed with a God-given Greek-god body, but he had a tremendous work ethic. He knew exactly what he wanted to be.”

Barbier also said Hill had a tremendous sense of humor.

“I used to say to Marquise that when he went to LSU that he would be the guy who they would interview all of the time,” Barbier said.

After a highly successful career at LSU, Hill, 24, declared for the draft following his junior year, the season LSU claimed the national title.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound defensive end was a member of the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXIX championship team as a rookie and had appeared in 13 games in his first three seasons with the Patriots. He played in eight games in 2005 and was active for four games in 2006.

“We are all shocked,” Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Marquise and his family.”

Hill, a 2001 De La Salle graduate, was part of the highly regarded recruiting class by former LSU coach Nick Saban.

“It’s certainly a tragedy, especially for someone so young, someone from such a great family,” Saban, now the coach at Alabama, said in a statement. “He did such a phenomenal job as a player, ambassador and representative of LSU and as a player in the NFL.

“My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and to the entire LSU family.”

Hill, along with fellow defensive end Marcus Spears and wide receiver Michael Clayton, helped give the Tigers one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. He was rated the No. 2 defensive lineman in the country by some scouting services and was ranked as the nation’s No. 7 prospect overall by Super Prep magazine.

That class paid dividends when the Tigers defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the 2004 Sugar Bowl for the BCS title at the Superdome.

Hill and the Tigers’ defense were instrumental in the victory. Oklahoma’s Jason White was sacked five times, and he completed only 13 of 37 passes for 102 yards. He threw two interceptions, one that Spears returned for a touchdown.

Hill recorded four tackles in that game with a sack, a tackle for a loss and a pass breakup.

De La Salle football coach Richard Walker said Hill never forget his old school. Walker, an assistant when Barbier was head coach, said he had known Hill since he was a freshman in high school.

Walker said Hill came back to De La Salle three or four times a year when he was at LSU, and he spoke at the Cavaliers’ sports banquet the year the Tigers won the national championship.

“He was real appreciative of the education that he got at De La Salle,” Walker said.

Walker said Hill returned to De La Salle during his first season with the Patriots.

“He grew to become a better football player over the years and a better person,” Walker said. “It was great to see him come back all of the time.”

Hill was a “big kid who had a lot of raw ability during high school, but he was as nice as he could be — and he did everything asked of him,” said Vincent Saylor, a former De La Salle quarterback who played with Hill during Hill’s freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

Saylor said that during Hill’s junior season there was an injury on De La Salle’s offensive line, and Hill and another player rotated at left tackle to help the team.

“He was willing to make sacrifices for the team,” said Saylor, who is in law school in Birmingham, Ala.

Hill also helped out in the Boston area.

In the fall of 2005, Hill participated in the Hometown Huddle, an event in which the Patriots worked with the United Way to build a wheelchair ramp at Barbara Jones’ Mattapan, Mass., home. Jones suffered with multiple sclerosis for 26 years.

Hill’s agent, Albert Elias, said Hill spent much of his time since Hurricane Katrina helping family members rebuild their homes.

“From what I hear he’s done a lot to help with things after Katrina, and I know he had a great passion for the city of New Orleans,” said former LSU quarterback Matt Mauck, who was Hill’s teammate.

“Off field he was a really kind person, kind of like a gentle giant. And not only for LSU, but for New England and everyone who got the chance to meet him throughout his life, everyone has to be extremely saddened and disappointed to hear the news.”

After going to the NFL, Hill continued to do much of his offseason training at LSU and was known and admired by current Tigers players, university athletics spokesman Michael Bonnette said.

“His presence meant a lot for some of the younger guys,” Bonnette said. “He gave them someone to look up to, and he was always there for them.

“Here’s a 6-foot-6, 300-pound guy, as intimidating as can be, and yet every time you approached him he always welcomed you with a big old smile. In between the lines, he had his game face on, but outside the lines, in the community or in the weight room, he was always smiling and having a good time.”

NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this story.