ATLANTA — Even noise-canceling headphones and blinders for his eyes may have done little to distract Stephen Hill from all the outside attention.
The same type of attention the young ballplayer didn’t need to heed.
But as it was, he heard all the comparisons. He read the expectations of reporters and fans who believed this was his year. He digested every morsel of the well-wishing hype-machine which believed this was his time. Which believed this was his opportunity to take over for a not-so-forgotten, recent Georgia Tech legend, and emerge as the player everyone knew he could be.
Everyone, including him.
“For me, I was trying to take it all too fast,” Hill said.
Given the unofficial title of “next major playmaker” — whether he truly wanted the crown or not — Hill was presumed all offseason and preseason to be the primary replacement to Demaryius “Bay Bay” Thomas, a big-bodied pass-catcher who was taken as the first receiver in April’s NFL draft.
Lofty shoes to fill to be sure, but Hill, and many others, believed the sophomore was the man for the job.
“There was this big hype over ‘Bay Bay’s gone, and Stephen Hill’s supposed to be this big thing,” a reflective Hill said earlier this week. “But it’s not about that. It’s just about me coming out there working hard and trying to help out the team and doing what I was able to do most of last year.”
Chiefly, that is catch passes and run like the wind after touching them.
One year after hauling in six receptions and solidifying himself as a big-play threat as a true freshman, Hill has struggled this season fulfilling the high goals that he and others set.
Drops, not miraculous, one-handed grabs and touchdown-scoring catches, have been the story of his year.....
For more on this story, read Thursday's Telegraph or check back to macon.com Thursday morning.