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Patriots players cope with Hill's passing

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (May 31, 2007) -- Marquise Hill used to sit just behind Ty Warren at Patriots meetings. During team drills, they would face each other across the line of scrimmage.

Now, there are flowers in the locker where Hill had dressed.

"It's definitely a void there," Warren said, "just walking by and not seeing him where he usually is."

Just 24 years old, Hill died after falling off a jet ski the night of May 27 in Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans during a Memorial Day weekend break from team workouts. Four days later, players gathered for the first time since then at New England's passing camp before heading to New Orleans for funeral services.

Hill never made a major impact on the field, playing in only 13 games in three seasons since New England drafted him in the second round out of LSU in 2004. Off the field, he was very much a part of the Patriots, teammates said.

"He'd go right up and down the lockers in the locker room, from the offensive line to the punters, and crack jokes with them," Warren said.

With stars like Warren and Richard Seymour in front of him at defensive end, Hill didn't play much, but worked hard.

"He was always a guy full of energy," Seymour said. "He was always coming in early. He would come in with the coaching staff. He would work out here early and be sitting at the breakfast table when guys were starting rolling in."

Kevin Faulk, an LSU running back before Hill arrived at the school, joined Hill and three of his LSU teammates now with the Patriots to help with the recovery in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina. Hill was a native of New Orleans.

"It was real important for him," Faulk said. "It's his hometown. He actually got affected by it, too. His house was destroyed in Katrina."

He recalled Hill as a fun-loving person.

"Anything you needed, he probably was the person that you would call. He knew a lot of people out here, from getting your car painted to getting different things that you needed besides football," Faulk said. "You rarely saw him with a frown or upset. He always had a smile, always ready to lift you up."

Hill's death was ruled an accidental drowning. He was described as a strong swimmer.

Faulk got news of the accident in a phone call, then turned on the television to see if it was true.

Warren learned of it from phone calls from teammates. He said he had heard stories of people who survived after being in the water for two days. Hill's body was found Monday.

"Marquise, a man of that stature, 6-6 and 300 pounds," Warren said. "The average person might think a guy like that would just swim his way out of that situation. But it just goes to show, you just never know."

Seymour last saw Hill on May 25 and learned of the accident while returning from former teammate Deion Branch's wedding.

"For me, having four kids, I'm just trying to spend all the time that I can with them," Seymour said. "You never know when our last moment is. Personally, I've been through a tragic situation, as well. It's always tough. But I think over time, time heals wounds. But it's never easy."

In April 2004, Seymour's father shot and killed his girlfriend in South Carolina, then shot himself in a murder-suicide, police said.

Three years later, Seymour is dealing with the death of a teammate. He said the team will do something to honor Hill.

The club has arranged for players, coaches and front office personnel to fly to New Orleans for the visitation the night of June 1 and the following morning, and the funeral the afternoon of June 2.

"Everything we do, we try to do it as a team," Seymour said.

On this day, most of the players went through an optional passing camp. For Warren and Faulk, returning to work was therapeutic.

For Hill, it would have been another chance to develop as a player.

"You never know what could have happened," Warren said. "The sky was the limit for Marquise and the sky's the limit for anybody that works like he did and approached things like he did and had the personality he had when tough times came about."

After the workouts last week, Hill went home.

"When I first heard the news, it was just a feeling of numbness. You're here last week," Seymour said, "and everyone kind of goes home on the weekend, and one of your teammates doesn't come back."

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2007, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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