In his last three seasons with the Detroit Lions, Shaun Hill attempted 16 passes and appeared in all of four games.
Hill understood his lot as a backup quarterback, but was unfailing in the belief that he could succeed as an NFL starter. Now that he has a chance to lead his own team, the man he used to sit behind in Detroit believes Hill is destined for a big season.
"I think he'll make the most of it," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "He's done that his entire career. I think they know what they're getting with him. Obviously, you don't ever want to see anybody get hurt, but Sam left them in capable hands. The guy's a smart player, he's not going to lose you games, he'll make some big-time plays and they have enough talent on that team to be successful."
Hill is taking over for Sam Bradford as the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams after Bradford was lost for the season to another torn ACL.
A journeyman in his 13th NFL season and on his fourth team, Hill has a mixed track record as a spot starter over the course of his career.
He went 3-7 as starter with the Lions in 2010 when Stafford was lost for the majority of the year with a shoulder injury, and made 16 starts in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
The only other time he played significant minutes in Detroit, Hill led a late comeback in a 2012 game against the Tennessee Titans, completing 10 of 13 passes including a Hail Mary touchdown to Titus Young, before the Lions lost on a botched fourth-and-1 play in overtime.
Stafford, who texted with Hill after Bradford's injury last weekend, said the 34-year-old is "fired up" about his opportunity.
"He was short and sweet with me," Stafford said. "I just told him I was happy for him and told him to go have some fun out there playing. He just said, 'Appreciate it,' and he'll be good out there. He'll be good for them."
Hill signed a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the Rams in March in part to be close to his off-season home in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo.
Stafford said Hill is good enough to parlay this opportunity into a Josh McCown-like renaissance. McCown played well in relief of Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears last year, and signed a two-year deal to be the starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this off-season.
"He's a gamer," Stafford said. "He may not wow anybody in practice, but when the lights come on, guys play for him. He's a tough guy, he's a personality, he's somebody that will give it everything he's got, that's for sure. Play through injuries, play through whatever."
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