We now present you, as promised, with Part II of the weekend mailbag. I'll take this opportunity to expand a bit on a story I've been meaning to pass along for a while: The unique background of defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, Detroit's fourth-round draft pick.
Rob of Fenton writes: What's your take on Sammie Lee Hill, 4th RD DT for the Lions? I know he is a project but do you see him in a starter role making a contribution this season? Thanks.
Kevin Seifert: For my money, Hill is as interesting of a prospect as there is in the NFC North this season. He's athletic enough to have played baseball in high school, and during a conference call last month he joked (I think) that school officials sewed two chest protectors together to allow him to play catcher. I'd say he was a big target.
The most important attribute Hill has is size. He's a legitimate 6-foot-4 and 329 pounds, and I'm guessing he could pack on a few more pounds if he needed to. That's what got him noticed out of Stillman (Ala.) College of the SIAC. NFL teams are always looking for naturally big bodies, and Hill has one.
They say you can't teach big, and the Lions quite frankly would be much-improved if they had some interior defenders who can't be moved off the ball. It doesn't necessarily matter if he has the quickness to penetrate into backfield or to get a consistent pass rush. Clogging up the middle is a huge upgrade over what the Lions had last season.
Of course, Hill admits he has a lot to learn from a technique standpoint. No matter how big you are, there are ways for NFL offensive linemen to move you out of the way if you don't take on blocks properly. That technique work will determine how quickly Hill gets on the field. But I think it's going to be hard for a team that got pushed all over the field last season to resist the temptation to see what he can do sooner rather than later.
Hill's conference call with Detroit reporters was the most interesting I listened to during draft weekend. In 2007, as it turns out, he was one of three Stillman players who rushed into a burning house to save a man who was trapped. I'll let him tell you the story:
Hill: "I was on my way home from school, dropping off some players after watching film, and we were on a back road. I saw a house on fire and I was driving. I told one of my teammates that the house was on fire and he said that we should turn around, because someone might need help. Sure enough, we went back and there was a woman standing out front saying that her father was inside. We thought about it first, because obviously we didn't want to hurt ourselves, too, but in the process we thought maybe we could help him. We thought about it and were getting ready to turn around and then we heard the man making some noise like he couldn't breathe. We just took our shirts off and put them over our faces and went as far as we could without hurting ourselves. Sure enough, we got far enough to where we could grab him and drag him outside the door."
Hill said the trio remained safe by holding on to each other so no one got lost:
"Once one of us grabbed the man, the rest of us just drug each other out of there, so none of us would get hurt."
Hey, did someone say something about Brett Favre? Sorry. I must be hearing things.