ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The long pass from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith floated slowly through the sky. At first it looked overthrown, but it may be impossible to overthrow wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
Hill targeted the ball in his sight. Cornerback Marcus Peters tried to cover him, but the rookie’s speed proved too much to match. With one final burst, the receiver lunged and secured the completion, crossing the goal line for an easy touchdown.
“He’s fast as (heck),” Peters said. “It’s fun. That’s the competition we need. That’s what we’ll need from him all through the season. I told him, “Man, we’re going to need you to do that during the season, so just keep practicing.’ He’s doing a real wonderful job just coming in every day and working, so just keep working, man.”
Perhaps no Chiefs player has garnered more attention since draft day than Hill. Fans and reporters may continue to ask questions stemming from his guilty plea to a domestic abuse charge in August 2015, but Hill’s play is putting to rest any doubts about his talent and abilities.
On the field, Hill has been the star of camp, using his speed to make dazzling plays and displaying good catching skills along with an acrobatic leaping ability to pull down passes in bounds. Rookies can be infamous for showing flashes of brilliance, but Hill often turns in one show-stopper play after another at practice.
The most immediate opportunity for Hill to make an impact may be on kick returns. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said he plans to use the rookie on both punts and kickoffs.
Toub said he isn’t surprised at the game-changing speed Hill has displayed at camp.
“The guys that are going against him are surprised by it because you can see it,” he said. “They think they’ve got an angle and all of the sudden — bam — they’re done. He also has the ability to change things. He’ll show you one speed, and then all of a sudden he has another gear.”
The challenge to fitting Hill into the offense is getting him comfortable with the playbook and the positions he’s playing on the field, said co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
“We got him playing like ‘Where’s Waldo?,’ ” Childress said. “We have him bouncing in a lot of different positions, so that’s a lot to gather as we start down these installs. He’s got great aptitude. He appears to be able to have the ability to do that, and when he gets in those spots, he’s going to have a lot of freedom that he doesn’t know he has right now — to convert a route, to be able to strike a route back outside.”
Wherever he is lined up, the speedster has found ways to get open as a receiver, a fact not lost on quarterback Alex Smith.
“He certainly has got a gear there, as long as speed goes, that helps,” Smith said. “Not just with the deep stuff, but certainly with underneath stuff as well. There’s just something inherent in that, and when you do have speed of that kind, you get a lot of respect and guys are scared of it.”
To make himself a valuable asset on offense, Hill said he needs to work on finishing plays, particularly when he doesn’t get the ball. He also wants to get more comfortable catching the ball and eliminating dropped passes.
“I’ve had a few drops so I got to get better in that area, too,” Hill said. “There are some things I’ve been working on after practice. I got to continue to get better every day. I just can’t settle for, ‘I’m good at it.’ I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to become a pro at it. “
Regarding his previous off-the-field troubles, Hill was asked if he had concerns about how fans would respond to him.
“I mean, not really,” he said. “I was raised in South Georgia and my mom always told me, ‘Just go out there and do you.’ I just try to stay tunnel vision, that’s it.”
Interactions with fans while signing autographs has been positive, Hill said.
“Fans, they’ve been great since day one. It’s all love out here,” he said. “I can’t be nothing but appreciative to the fans and everybody, so the fans have been great to me.”