www.cnn.com

By Jill Martin

 

As Wednesday’s media session with the Kansas City Chiefs was winding down, Tyreek Hill received a phone call. It was from his mother. “I thought she was calling about my son,” he said to a couple of reporters remaining at his table. Covering Tyreek Hill isn’t straightforward. The Chiefs wide receiver, in his fourth NFL season from Pearson, Georgia, is unquestionably a very good football player. But there’s also his personal life, with his past as delicate as it can be polarizing. In July, the NFL said in a written statement that Hill, who was investigated after an accusation that he physically abused his son, would not be suspended or fined by the league. Now he’s about to play in Super Bowl LIV. Hill told CNN on Wednesday that he has 20 people coming to watch him in the Super Bowl, including his son. It’s clear that the team supports Hill, with the organization announcing he was signed to a three-year, $54 million contract extension back in September. “They know each and every day that I’m the guy who comes in, and I’m motivated and I smile each and every day, no matter what I’m going through in life,” Hill told CNN. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Wednesday said Hill has done a nice job with managing his life off the field. “I’m proud of him for that,” Reid said. “To see growth in somebody, you like to see that with these young guys. He’s doing well as a father, and he’s doing well as a football player. We’re lucky to have him.” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt spoke to ESPN on Tuesday about Hill and his behavior. We’ve seen Tyreek with his son here over the last couple of years,” Hunt said. “I think to a person, people in the organization would tell you that he’s an outstanding father.” Hill was banned from team activities beginning in late April, after a partial audio recording was released originally on CNN affiliate KCTV, suggested that Hill broke his 3-year-old son’s arm. The man identified as Hill also is heard on the recording telling his then-fiancée, Crystal Espinal, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b—-.” CNN has not authenticated the recording. Hill previously has denied wrongdoing. In 2014, Hill was accused of domestic assault and battery on Espinal when she was pregnant. He pleaded guilty, according to the Oklahoman, and received three years’ probation. He was dismissed by the Oklahoma State University football team and finished his college career at the University of West Alabama. The Chiefs went on to select Hill in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft. “His first year with us, there were some question marks coming into the league,” Hunt said to ESPN. “We never had any issues with him. He always was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be doing, accountable to the team, listening to his coaches, (being) a good teammate. “I think we’ve seen that grow the last three or four years. Certainly, I sense a heightened level of maturity from him this year, which is probably a byproduct of the challenges he went through earlier this year.” When Hill was reinstated to the team in the summer, he posted on Twitter, thanking his family, friends and fans for their support. “I can assure you that I will continue to work to be the person, player and teammate that you envisioned me to be,” he wrote. Said Hill on Monday: “Each and every day that I get up I get a chance to play the game that I love, be around people who are loving and then I get a chance to be around my kids and be in their life. I’m truly blessed. … I feel like if God gives you breath in your lungs, you’re blessed right there because that’s just another opportunity for you to wake up and be a better you than yesterday, so I’m truly blessed each and every day. I’m still working on myself each and every day trying to be a better man, a better father.” He said this week that he always knew he was going to play this season, and despite missing time because of injury, he still finished the regular season with 58 catches and 860 yards. “The Chiefs, they gave me this opportunity, and I’m never going to take it for granted,” Hill said. “I’m not only playing for myself, I’m playing for my kids, I’m playing for my city, and I’m playing for the organization. So, everything that I do, it’s going to be on them, it’s going to be on my kids.”