Kenny Hill was tasked with following the legendary Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M in 2014. Hill broke the school record for single-game passing yards when he lit up the South Carolina defense for 511 yards in his first collegiate start. That performance led to the creation of the nickname ‘Kenny Trill.’
Hill later transferred to TCU, where he cemented his college legacy with the Horned Frogs. When Kenny Trill departed Fort Worth, he held the program records for season (67.3) and career (64.0) completion percentage. Hill returned to TCU as a student assistant coach in 2018.
He quickly rose on Gary Patterson’s staff serving as a graduate assistant in 2019 before transitioning into an offensive analyst role in 2020 and finishing his time with the Horned Frogs as quarterbacks coach during Patterson's final season in 2021. Hill spent the 2022 season as an offensive quality control coach with Cal.
Some were surprised in January when Hill was named the associate head coach and running backs coach at UIW. Joining the Cardinals made sense for a couple of reasons. Hill was sold on Killough’s vision for the Cardinals. Another factor was that his wife, Blair, was pregnant, and their families lived in Texas.
“When I took over, I had to replace all 10 assistants,” UIW head coach Clint Killough said. “My initial focus was finding coordinators, and we hired Jim Gush for defense and Connor McQueen for offense. I worked closely with those guys to fill out the staff, and Kenny’s name kept coming up in our conversations. He’s a younger guy who’s charismatic and fits the mold we wanted to create at UIW regarding the atmosphere and being relatable to the players.”
“I knew a little bit about UIW and their winning culture here. When I talked with Coach Killough and heard what he was trying to do, I was down to come here on that alone. I was ready to get back to Texas for recruiting, and I know the high school coaches, which was huge for me. But having our families here with my wife pregnant was a big plus.”
Having a significant other pregnant is something Hill shared with Killough, whose fiance, Angel Villanueva, was pregnant with their first child. The two men will always share the bond of becoming a father during the season. It also meant more responsibility for Hill as the associate head coach.
“I’ve put a lot of weight on him with his role here. It was the position I had for (GJ) Kinne, and it elevated me to the big seat,” Killough said. “There are a lot of responsibilities and duties away from football for a head coach. When I’m away from the building, he’s in charge of steering the ship and keeping it moving in the right direction.”
For Hill, it was a chance to learn the inner workings of a football program.
“The biggest thing for me after (Killough) named me (associate head coach) was to be in lockstep with him and see what he goes through every day. I’ve been around great head coaches, but you don’t see the up close, day-to-day schedule. Seeing what it takes firsthand gives me an advantage in my career. It’s been huge for my development as a coach.
“I’ve watched how he handles players and the administration side, but it’s more than that. He meets with the strength coach, trainers, and academic people - every aspect of this program comes across his desk every day, and it’s more than football. It’s nice for me to focus on football until he’s out of the building.”
Killough said Hill is an excellent position coach when he’s not performing his associate head coach duties.
“The running backs are a difficult room to manage because they have a lot of different responsibilities in our offense. They have to be chameleons in terms of being able to run, catch, and protect the quarterback.”
The problem with kids nowadays is that most don’t remember watching Johnny Manziel lead the Aggies. After all, that was a decade ago; some were eight years old. But that doesn’t mean Hill has lost any skill on the field.
“We have a young staff, and we will get out there and run around with the guys sometimes,” Killough said. “He can still move around, and when he starts spitting out there, you get the Kenny Trill chatter.”
How many of today’s college athletes know that the man they know as Coach Hill was once Kenny Trill?
“Our punter, Ben (D’Aquila), came up to me one day and said, ‘I was looking this up the other day, and I was like, there’s no way that’s our coach. That’s not Coach Hill.’ Some of the running backs didn’t believe me, so I had to throw the highlights on for them to see,” Hill said while laughing. “The 2023 recruiting class is 10 years from when I graduated high school, so I’m starting to feel old. Some of these kids tell me they remember watching me when they were in elementary, and I realize I’m getting old.”
Hill’s experiences on and off the field as the star quarterback at a Power 5 school have helped his quick rise through the coaching ranks.
“I went through my own trials and tribulations when I was in college, and I’m able to talk to these guys about that and tell them my story,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of good to being a college athlete but a lot of bad, too. I hope telling them what I’ve been through will help them avoid the bad situations and keep them from learning those things firsthand.”
Killough said Hill has the ingredients needed to be a great coach.
“His pedigree gives him a presence with the players when he walks in the room. But you still have to talk the talk and have that demeanor along with a sense of passion for getting them where they want to go and fully unlock their potential,” Killough said. “He has that ability and the pedigree, which makes him special.”
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