NEW ORLEANS (June 2, 2007) -- As he stood near the casket of late New England Patriots teammate Marquise Hill, defensive lineman Jarvis Green swallowed hard, took some deep breaths and offered a few fond memories to Hill's grieving relatives.
"He made everybody laugh," Green said. "The first time I met him he made me laugh and the last time I talked to him he made me laugh. He worked hard. He gave his all. ... That's the kind of person he was."
Hill, a 24-year-old father of a 2-year-old son, was buried on June 2, nearly a week after his death in a personal watercraft accident on Lake Pontchartrain.
The former LSU defensive end, who won a national championship with the Tigers in 2003, had yet to see regular playing time in three seasons with the Patriots. Yet he had won the hearts of numerous college and pro teammates who remembered him as a strong, caring and vibrant man who improved the lives of those who knew him.
Virtually the entire Patriots team, including coach Bill Belichick and his assistants, attended his wake on June 1. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who had coached Hill at LSU, also was there.
Green, New England defensive back Randall Gay and Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who all played at LSU, remained for the funeral the following day, along with numerous current and former Tigers players, many of whom now play for other NFL squads.
"Everybody kind of got a chance to see each other, but it's kind of a bad time because we lost one of our brothers," said New York Giants defensive back Corey Webster, who described Hill, a former teammate at LSU, as the type of person who could always be counted on to help friends and loved ones get through tough times.
"In times like this, people would lean on him because he knew how to make people laugh, take the edge off," Webster said. "He's not here right now, you know, but he's in a better place. I know he would want everyone to be happy."
Others at the funeral included Colts running back Joseph Addai, Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Michael Clayton, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and Kansas City Chiefs rookie Dwayne Bowe.
Saints players, in the midst of minicamp, were not able to attend but had a chance to go to the wake, said receiver Devery Henderson, who was a teammate of Hill on LSU's 2003 squad.
The funeral was held in a spacious gospel church which Hill attended as a child. Red roses were piled high on the casket. Resting on the flowers was a football, a section of which had been stitched in smooth, white leather and decorated with the symbols of the Patriots and LSU Tigers, along with Hill's name and the years of his birth and death.
Beside the casket was a large action photo of Hill during one of his final LSU games. He stood in triumph, arms folded, above then-Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning as fellow LSU players nearby raised their arms in celebration.
Since he had turned pro, Hill continued to spend much of his free time with family in New Orleans or working out at LSU's Baton Rouge campus, where he developed close friendships with current LSU coach Les Miles and current Tigers players, who also were at the funeral.
Hill's family was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but Hill had been helping them rebuild and was home for Memorial Day weekend when he and a friend went for a ride on a personal watercraft without life vests.
They fell into the water. The woman survived by holding onto a pylon. Hill, who friends described as a strong swimmer, drowned in an area of swirling currents. The Orleans Parish coroner has said Hill's head showed signs of bruising and that he may have had a concussion that left him disoriented.
At the church, Hill's former LSU teammate and roommate, Ben Wilkerson, sought to console Hill's mother, Sherry, while addressing the crowd as one of the funeral speakers.
"Ms. Hill, you know, you lost a son," Wilkerson said, then nodded toward the collection of Hill's former college and pro teammates. "But if you look to your right, you have so many sons over there. He was our brother. He was our family. It will be a journey with him not with us any more. But he wants us to be strong because he was such a strong person."