When Josh Hill told his oldest son he was being released by the only NFL team he’s played for, the New Orleans Saints, he was greeted with surprising enthusiasm.
“He was excited,” Hill said Tuesday. “He said, ‘Let’s go somewhere where there’s snow. I’m tired of this heat down here.’ And I was like, ‘All right, we’ll see.’ So I guess his wish was granted. He’s going to see some snow.'”
He is expected to serve as the Lions’ No. 2 tight end this fall, a blocking complement to T.J. Hockenson, though he said in his introductory video conference Tuesday his role is still “to be determined.”
“I’m just going to go into camp and try to bring different assets to the table, really do anything they ask me to do and just bring a workman’s mentality to it,” Hill said.
Hill started 61 games in eight seasons with the Saints after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. He had eight catches for 46 yards last season, his lowest total since his rookie year, but is one of four active tight ends who has caught a touchdown pass every season since 2013.
He spoke by Zoom from his Louisiana home Tuesday, with a painting of the French Quarter hanging on the wall behind him, and said leaving the place where he’s raised his children will not be easy.
“It is tough,” he said. “We kind of made this our home base. We stayed here throughout the year, so when you have — we’ve got four kids, so moving those relationships and everything, there’s growing pains with that of course.”
One thing that should help, and one of the big selling points for Hill in signing with Detroit, is new Lions head coach Dan Campbell, Hill’s position coach in New Orleans the past five seasons.
Hill said he and Campbell have a unique relationship and credited Campbell for teaching him how to prepare for games.
“I’ll save some of the big stories for a later time, but as far as Dan goes, the thing that stands out to me is his commitment to the game,” Hill said. “The way that he works, the way that he puts his guys in positions to succeed and just the amount that he cares about the players and just what he’s doing, you’re getting a genuine guy.”
One of Lions’ two additions so far in veteran free agency, along with receiver Tyrell Williams, Hill said he is looking forward to playing alongside Hockenson, who made the Pro Bowl last year in his second NFL season.
“Haven’t spoke to him yet but looks like a guy that loves to play the game,” Hill said. “He looks like he’s having fun, he plays hard. Watched some of his film, he’s an exciting player so I’m anxious to get to work with him and kind of build on that relationship.”
As for leaving New Orleans, Hill said he will miss quarterback Drew Brees, who retired Sunday after a Hall-of-Fame career.
“What a special guy,” Hill said. “Off the field, on the field. He spoke into my life a lot about being a father. Obviously, the way that he plays the game is very committed. No matter what the situation was, he was locked in and ready to go. Sad to see him go, but I’m extremely grateful for those eight years. I enjoyed the hell out of it.”