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Here’s the Scoop: Hill Is One Ram Who Call Tell a Deadline From a Sideline

Times Staff Writer

Now that Rams running back Eric Dickerson is incommunicado with the press, it should be noted that his closest friend on the team is nothing more than a rat journalist like all the others who have come to describe Dickerson runs this season as one tip-toe through the tulips after another.

Yes, tight end David Hill, Dickerson’s pal, can still smell a good story a 100 yards away. He can’t help it. It’s in his blood. He was a journalism major in college at Texas A&I; and still can recite the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why.)

His nickname would be “Scoop,” even if he couldn’t catch.

If Hill wasn’t playing for the Rams, he might be out on the sly, trying to find out why Dickerson won’t talk. Can you picture the 260-pound Hill, dressed in trench coat and fedora, meeting his Ram source near the wharf at midnight?

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There are things Hill could tell you about the Rams that would rate as page-one stuff, easy. But as long as he’s wearing a Rams helmet, Hill must keep chin-strap and lip buttoned at all times. He learned his lesson in seven years as a Detroit Lion.

Back then, Hill used to shoot from the hip with reporters, keeping their notebooks filled with juicy material. Hey, he was practically one of them.

Hill remembers a time after a loss to Minnesota when he publicly criticized the Lions’ game plan because he thought it had far too few plays designed for tight ends such as himself.

“Being the old journalism student, I always felt you should bring out what is the true problem,” Hill said, explaining his quotes to the press. “But that followed me around for years.”

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The next day, then-coach Monty Clark screamed at Hill for blabbing to the press. Hill thought it was good copy. It was the ending of a beautiful friendship.

Hill’s mouth ranneth over often.

One of the local Detroit papers offered Hill the chance to write a weekly column about the Lions. Funny, but the team wouldn’t go for it.

“They said a current player couldn’t do it,” Hill said. “They said it would be like having a reporter in the locker room every day, which could be good or bad. They didn’t want me doing it, probably because of my big mouth. And I had some stories to tell.”

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After seven years, the Lions basically told Hill to go tell them someplace else.

Hill had the “Mr. Quotable” reputation when he came to the Rams in a 1983 trade.

So when Dickerson quit talking to the press earlier this season, everyone naturally ran to Hill for the scoop. Now, Hill the journalist probably would have spilled the beans. But Hill the tight end couldn’t do it. Telling on Dickerson while still in uniform would be like burning a source, not to mention a friend.

So Hill has played it cool when discussing Dickerson.

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“Some of the (newspaper) statements were about his own personal performance,” Hill said. “They were saying that it didn’t look like he was running the same way. He started to get a little frustrated, not so much with what was being said, but just everything that was going on at the time.”

Hill, a 10-year veteran, said he hasn’t offered much advice to Dickerson about dealing with the media. He said it’s a phase all young star players must go through.

“They become all elated and love to read about themselves when they get the good press,” Hill said. “But when they get the bad press, they start hollering, ‘You S.O.B.’

“You can give them advice, but they’re their own men . . . It’s hard to force your opinion on other players. Everything comes in time. It’s like the old story your mother tells you about the hole in the road, but you don’t believe until you actually go out and fall in it.”

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Hill’s basic advice to Dickerson and others is this: “You’re going to get good press and bad press. The way I look at it is, in the realm of things, it’s not really that important. I think everyone should have fun with it.”

That’s the mellow Hill speaking. A few years ago, he might have already gone off and said something about his low-key role with the Rams. If Hill were covering this team, one of his first stories would be why the Rams aren’t throwing the ball to him.

He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the Lions, but his role since joining the Rams has been refined.

“People ask me what I do, and I say I knock people out,” Hill said.

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And that’s pretty much it. Hill has become one of the NFL’s premier blocking tight ends, but that job fact rarely lands you in the end zone with the ball in your hands. Hill, who once caught 53 passes one season with the Lions, has only 16 this season with the Rams.

“I’m like one of the guys who works in the mines,” Hill said. “I have to go down and dig. I never get to see the sun. I’m just one of the guys down in the hole. You never get used to it, but I’ve somewhat accepted my role.”

Of course, there’s always journalism to fall back on. Hill covered sports for the Javelina Gazette while in college and may be getting the urge to try it again.

“I feel bad,” Hill said, “because I’ve been in locker rooms for 10 years and I’ve lost so much of my vocabulary. All I seemed to say is ‘Uh,’ ‘You know’ and ‘Come here.’ I always sit at home and laugh with my wife and try to figure out how many words I actually used today--that are in the dictionary.”

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