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John DeShazier: Taysom Hill's willingness to do 'whatever it takes' got him on field for Saints

Reserve quarterback contributed on special teams vs. Panthers

See the best moments from Saints' Taysom Hill and special teams in the Week 13 match up against the Carolina Panthers.

The smiles on his teammates' faces last week when he arrived at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center told Taysom Hill what the coaching staff hadn't yet had an opportunity to share with him.

New Orleans' backup quarterback, No. 3 on the depth chart and inactive the first 11 regular-season games, was going to be a frontline special team player against Carolina, and active for the first time in his NFL career.

"It wasn't a secret," he said. "It had just been posted. I didn't even know where they posted the special teams stuff, I had no idea what was happening. So other people had seen it before I did.

"Came into the facility Wednesday and everyone was kind of looking at me, smiling a little bit. I was excited, and had the chance to dress up and suit and play in my first NFL game."

He may have been among the last to see his name on the list, but his coaches were among the first to see that Hill's athletic ability and personality would lend an assist to special team units that, due to injuries, could use an infusion of pop entering Sunday's game against the Panthers.

Hill didn't disappoint in the least. He had two tackles on kickoff returns and came within a step of blocking a punt in the Saints' 31-21 victory at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Saints coach Sean Payton shared some of his enthusiasm over Hill's special teams potential during a production meeting with the Fox television crew that was in town to broadcast the game.

"What I said was, this player is a special teams player who I think is going to do very well, and we liked the prospect as a quarterback," Payton said. "I think we saw enough on tape to claim him (off waivers following Hill's release from Green Bay after training camp), to put him on our active roster. But anything we do with regards to where we're going forward is certainly something that will be won and lost on the field.

"I think that he's athletic. I think he did a good job (Sunday), especially bringing some juice to the special teams. He can run, he has size. It was refreshing."

Hill (6 feet 2, 221 pounds) had to receive a crash course last week. The 27-year-old rookie, who played at BYU, didn't earn his reputation – or a roster spot with the Saints – because of his tackling prowess.

"I'm sure I've made a few tackles on some bad plays at the quarterback position in college," he said, smiling, "but lining up and playing defense or – I've never played special teams – (I) probably (last made a tackle) in high school.

"I think the coaches had enough trust and faith in me and I think that's all that I needed. I think at the end of the day, whether you play quarterback or whatever position, we all grew up playing football and that was my mentality. I was excited. I really didn't know what to expect, but I knew that I was going to play hard and hope for the best.

"There was definitely a lot of teaching going on initially, as far as how they wanted me to play it and stuff. The players were poking at me a little bit. I was going through tackling drills, maybe 30 seconds to a minute of tackling drills, because I hadn't done it in forever. So I definitely went through all the necessary elements to get ready, and it was pretty impressive that the coaches were able to get me ready to play."

Too, it helped that Hill was a willing pupil, eager to get on the field in any possible way.

"I think it is always helpful and I think there is a personality he has that I think brings a little energy, and I felt it in our kicking game (Sunday)," Payton said.

"I was pumped," Hill said. "I didn't really know what to expect going into this, never played special teams. So to have the opportunity to play, and then to be able to make a tackle and help the team out in that way, was huge.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

That, and the results, perhaps will keep him on the game day active roster. Payton said that "it's hard to take that off when you've got size and speed that can run and do what he did."

But for as much as he may enjoy his roles on special teams, Hill maintains his goal of starting at quarterback in the NFL.

"I think any quarterback wants to come into a facility and be the next guy," he said. "So I'm preparing and hoping to have an opportunity and try to make the most of it."

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