The day after his not so little brother joined him in the AFC North, Ravens running back Justice Hill shot baskets in the front yard of their parents' home in Tulsa, Okla., just like they used to do before the NFL came calling.
"I'm just glad my guy's in the NFL," said Hill Friday of Daxton Hill's new team that the Ravens play twice a year.
"He's going to fit in perfectly there. He's on a good team. Whatever they need him to do, he can pretty much do everything. He's versatile, he can play safety, he can play corner. He can guard the tight end, he can guard the No. 1 receiver. He went up against a lot of receivers in the Big 10 and pretty much clipped all of them."
Count Justice Hill as one of those convinced his brother can play outside cornerback in the NFL. But, at 24 and three years older, Justice is pretty sure there's one thing he can't do.
The only time the eventual 6-0, 200-pound Dax got a chance to tackle him in pads came in practice when he was a freshman and Justice was a senior at Booker T. Washington High School on his way to Oklahoma State and then a fourth round selection in Baltimore.
Dax was starting at safety, but …
"He hasn't been too successful (tackling him), so I don't think that's going to change," Justice Hill said laughing.
But it was no laughing matter before that season when Dax told his father that he wasn't going to play football that year as he continued to wrestle with playing football or basketball. Derrick Hill, trying to catch catnaps Friday after driving Dax to the airport at 4 a.m. for his flight to Cincinnati, wasn't happy.
"Dax, you told them you were going to play," Derrick Hill recalled telling his son. "If there's one thing you have to remember, be a man of your word. How about this? If you just give it a shot and you don't like it, you don't have to play anymore. You can go to the library and read or play basketball or whatever you want to do."
"And," Derrick said, "he just took off."
Now the only thing left of those basketball days is No. 23, the jersey he decided to wear for the Bengals since safety Jessie Bates III is wearing the No. 30 he wore at Michigan. It's the number of his favorite basketball player. Michael Jordan was his guy growing up since he came to football a bit late.
"I was a basketball guy. I was a Duke-North Carolina guy. Football wasn't really a sport I followed growing up, so it was toward the back end of my career," Dax Hill told his first Paul Brown Stadium media gathering Friday. He was a point guard and shooting guard. "I had a shot, and I could facilitate a little bit as well," he said with a laugh like his brother's.
Derrick couldn't have called that. When he would go to Dax's basketball games, he could hear the other parents talking about how they'd never seen a kid jump out of the gym like that. When Dax got to eighth grade, Derrick said they were comparing him to Dwayne Wade and they would call lob plays for him to go up and dunk the ball. When he went to Kansas City for an AAU game, he remembers Dax outrebounding the 7-foot son of Manute Bol.
"He played his heart out," Derrick Hill said. "I think when he got to high school he thought he wasn't going to grow much taller and felt like football was probably a better route for him."
It took about as long as one of his 4.38-second 40-yard dashes (and, if it matters to you, one of his
6.57-second 3-cone drills that was the second fastest among safeties) to make it. He played just three years at Michigan and won't turn 22 until the fourth game of his rookie season.
"I'm level-headed. I know I have good character. I know I'm a good person," said Dax Hill of why he thinks he can excel here at such a young age. "I really look out for the best interest of the team, not really being selfish — I'm not that type of person. I know coming to the NFL, it's all about winning and being team-oriented. I feel like that's who I am as a person."
A lot of that, of course, comes from Tia and Derrick Hill and Justice, the older of their two children. Tia is an accountant/analyst for the city of Tulsa and Derrick is the major gifts officer for Tulsa's Crossover Prep Academy raising scholarship funds for middle school students in need of quality education.
Derrick's parents were pastors and teachers in Tulsa for more than 40 years and since he grew up with service in his life, so did his sons.
"They grew up in a household where the level of expectation was there," said Derrick of how he and Tia raised two NFL players. "When they showed an interest or asked us, we supported what they did. When they got to be in third and fourth grade, people said, 'You guys have something special here.' We supported their efforts."
When Tia and Derrick had kids, they thought long and hard about their names.
"You try to live up to your name. When you say your name, you're speaking something out into the universe," Derrick Hill said. "We looked up names and what they mean and named them accordingly. They've lived up to their names."
His full name is Daxton Jor-El Hill. Daxton is a Biblical reference to one who conquers great obstacles.
"A warrior," Derrick Hill said.
Jor-El is a name that Derrick loved from the Superman series. It means "strong armed." One day he looked out on the street when Dax was in the fifth grade and he was whipping the ball a lot harder and farther than the eighth-graders.
"Living up to his name," Derrick said.
At some point, the names are going to collide. Justice is rehabbing from the Achilles' injury that wiped out his third season last year.
"It's going to be funny seeing him out there," Justice Hill said. "I'll be out there laughing, honestly. Nothing bad. Just having fun with it. I'm glad he's going to a winning organization. It's hard to go to a losing team. Y'all just turned it around."
Take a look inside Daxton Hill's first day at Paul Brown Stadium.