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Saturday, May 10, 2014
Relationships key to Bengals' Day 2 moves

By Coley Harvey

CINCINNATI -- How did the Cincinnati Bengals end up landing Jeremy Hill and William Clarke in the second and third rounds of the NFL draft?

Because someone with the Bengals knew someone else who knew another person who happened to know both players well.

OK, that may be simplifying it a bit but it's true. At the heart of both Hill's and Clarke's selections were relationships that Bengals assistant coaches had with coaches at the players' schools, as well as relationships with other people that extended off the field. That was specifically the case for Clarke, whose parents knew Bengals defensive ends coach Jay Hayes before the newly drafted end was even born.

While the Hayes connection may have helped Clarke get recognized by the Bengals, the connection between Hill's coaches and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson helped get the LSU running back a job some outside the organization are stunned Cincinnati would allow him to take.

Hill has been arrested twice -- once in 2011 for sexual assault and again in 2013 for punching another man in a bar fight. The punch was caught on camera.

Following the 2011 arrest which occurred while he was still in high school and months before he was to begin his career at LSU, Hill plead guilty in Jan. 2012 to carnal knowledge of a juvenile. It was a misdemeanor. According to Baton Rouge police, he and another student pressured a 14-year-old girl to perform oral sex. He wasn’t allowed to play for LSU until after a judge sentenced him to two years probation in Jan. 2012. As a result, he missed the entire 2011 season.

After his arrest following the bar fight, Hill was suspended for parts of two games. Because of the red flags in his history, many Bengals fans expressed shock on social media Friday night when they saw the Bengals were welcoming him to the franchise.

"Anyone who comes in contact with me on a daily basis -- equipment managers, coaches, trainers -- they know what kind of person I am," Hill said to Cincinnati-based reporters on a conference call. "Once I get into the locker room, they'll see that and they'll see my leadership skills and how I work hard day in and day out. I think they'll be happy with it."

To head off inquiries from teams who would be curious about the off-field incidents, Hill sent a letter to all 32 teams outlining his side of the story in both events. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he didn't read the one that arrived at Paul Brown Stadium. Neither did Jackson nor running backs coach Kyle Caskey.

"I did not get the letter, but I didn't need the letter because I have a real connection with several coaches [at LSU]," Jackson said. "I trust their opinion and they coached in the National Football League. They know exactly what you need to do to have a chance up here. It's all behind him and his future's bright."

Similarly, Hayes says he believes Clarke possesses a promising career.

"I know the family," Hayes said. "Like [defensive coordinator] Paul [Guenther] says, the guy fits into the type of guys we have. We have long, tall, athletic players and he definitely is one of those guys."

Hayes contends the Bengals' interest in Clarke wasn't due to the coach's pre-existing relationship with the family, but it had to help him know just how well the youngest Clarke could fit into the locker room.

"I knew this kid's history when it comes to that. And you guys all know there's a couple of southwestern Pennsylvania guys running around this building," Hayes said to reporters. "To us, that's something where you know football is important to people back there."

Like Hayes and his brother, tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, Lewis is from southwestern Pennsylvania.