COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Kenny Hill insists he wasn’t daunted taking over for Johnny Manziel as quarterback at Texas A&M.
He did, however, ask the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most popular college players in recent history for some advice.
“He just said: ‘Go out there and be you. You don’t have to go out there and do anything crazy, just go out there and ball,’” Hill recalled.
So far he’s done just that, leading No. 6 Texas A&M to a perfect start with a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2006 with a win on Saturday at SMU.
The ultra-confident 19-year-old burst onto the scene by throwing for a school-record 511 yards in A&M’s season-opening win at South Carolina. He woke up the next day and realized his phone was broken and couldn’t be fixed, so he tracked the buzz on Twitter — suddenly he had gone from unknown backup to one of the hottest players in college football. Manziel and others were calling him Kenny Football, a sensible nod to Manziel’s “Johnny Football” nickname.
Except Hill didn’t like that. He wanted his own nom de plume.
He went through a list of names and decided “Kenny Trill” was his favorite. He was stunned by the media attention his new nickname elicited.
“That was nuts,” he said. “I get on Twitter and ‘Kenny Trill’ is trending on Twitter. I think it’s just unbelievable that it took off like that.”
“Trill” has long been used by Texas rapper Bun B, who calls himself Bun B Trill OG. Bun B tweeted about the nickname, saying he liked the idea of it but that Hill would have to do more to be “trill.” Hill was floored that perhaps the most famous rapper in Texas addressed his moniker.
“I think at some point I can earn that nickname,” he said.
If it were up to coach Kevin Sumlin, Hill would probably be called Kenny Chill.
Sumlin said he has seen his quarterback yawning in practice sometimes and simply shakes his head. But his serene personality helped him go on the road to South Carolina for his first start and not bat an eye in directing a surprising 52-28 rout of the Gamecocks.
“Him traveling last year and being a part of those different environments helped, but his demeanor certainly helps because he’s so calm,” Sumlin said. “You don’t want that out of your linebackers, but it probably helps him in a situation like that. (Offensive coordinator) Jake Spavital said he has zero nerves; that’s about right.”
His receivers love that about Hill and said it helps the team stay balanced no matter the situation.
“That’s why we knew he would do so well, because he has a sleepy demeanor to him,” receiver Malcome Kennedy said. “A lot of guys will come out and look at him and wouldn’t expect a threat from him, but he’s just a natural baller. He has every trait of a quarterback you would want.”
Hill beat out heralded freshman Kyle Allen for the job in camp. He feels lucky he got a second chance.
Like Manziel before his first season as a starter, Hill was arrested. According to an arrest report, he was picked up on a public intoxication charge in a College Station bar district in March and gave police a fake name. He was suspended, but Sumlin reinstated him before camp and said Hill and Allen would compete for the starting spot.