Florida football: CB Jaydon Hill overcomes injuries to earn SEC POW honors

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

When Florida football cornerback Jaydon Hill earned a game ball following his two-interception performance on Saturday against Missouri, it allowed him to reflect on what he’s overcome.

 A torn ACL in his left knee in high school. Another torn ACL in his right knee last season. An LCL injury in the same right knee this offseason.

“I'm just blessed to, you know what I'm saying, still be playing,” Hill said. “Honestly, I wasn't even supposed to play this year. I just feel like, it's an honor.”

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Hill earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance on Saturday. His 49-yard interception return for a touchdown put the Gators up 10-0 late in the first quarter.

Hill added another critical interception in the red zone late in the third quarter. They were the first and second interceptions of his college career.

"Honestly, the second one was bigger than the first because we literally held them to no points,” Hill said. “They could have kicked three right after. Every takeaway is good but taking away when they're in the red zone is different because that's points.”

Florida Gators cornerback Jaydon Hill (23) sees an old friend and yells for him before the start of the game against Missouri at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 8, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

The 6-foot, 181-pound Hill, from Huntsville, Ala., appeared in 10 games as a freshman in 2019. He then made five starts as a sophomore for the Gators in 2020, recording seven pass breakups, which ranked second on the team.

Then came the knee injury that sidelined Hill for the 2021 season. He returned last spring and caught the attention of first-year coach Billy Napier.

“The discipline to continue to rehab, the toughness to stay the course, he’s got passion about the game,” Napier said. “I always felt like watching him in spring ball that he was one of the best players we have. That showed up.”

The LCL injury forced Hill out of fall camp and the first four games of the 2022. He returned for Eastern Washington, wearing a brace on his knee. But after going through practices preparing for Missouri, Hill said he felt the time was right to shed the brace.

“Right before the D went out there, Donovan, one of the trainers came over with it,” Hill said. “I just gave him one of those (looks) and was like, 'I'm ready.' "

With the multi-interception game, Hill became the first Florida player with two interceptions and a pick-six in the same game since Chauncey Gardner-Johnson did it against Michigan in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29, 2018.  

“It’s been a long journey,” Hill said. “A lot of hard work, long late nights, a lot of tears. It’s been a journey. The work I’ve put in has paid off and I can’t complain. I’m just blessed. I’m still out here. I’m still going.”