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Tribute to Marquise Hill (1982-2007)

Hill Was a Throwback
A True Model of a New England Patriot

Parts of this tribute are taken from my condolence post at And The Valley Shook, SB Nation's blog on the LSU Tigers.

I've bandied about whether or not to write a tribute or an obituary for Marquise Hill.

It's not a task I relish. They're not easy, especially if the subject strikes anywhere close to home. When a person is a complete unknown, but that lends to a cold, impersonal list of facts and events, like words etched on a tombstone. Yet the most tenuous emotional attachment can lead to a cheap pulling of heartstrings and melodramatic tributes. It's a fine line to walk between sterile and patronizing.

In the end, I decided that Hill deserves it.

* * * * * * * *

Marquise Hill, we in Boston hardly knew ye. Alas for the people of Louisiana! Their loss is so much deeper.

In days when the headlines are full of so-called stars of the NFL involved in dog-fighting and other nefarious activity, news of the loss of a man like Marquise Hill is especially devastating. Here was a man you could call a role model, living by the highest and noblest standards and leading by example. The shame is that there are headlines too few for such people -- at least until tragedy strikes.

"Good people" don't sell papers or increase blog hit counts. I think that's why tragedies like these hurt even more. The loss of people like Hill wounds deep, but the realization that we value sensationalism and and scandal over their lofty principles stings even more -- and it lingers.

Since Hill's passing, I've read dozens of stories about his efforts to help Hurricane Katrina victims, he helped build a ramp on the home of a 60-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis from Mattapan, Mass., even the final act of his life was nothing less than utterly selfless. With a chance to save his own life, he helped someone else survive.

As his agent Albert Elias said, "It's just like him to put someone else's life in front of his own."

His endeavors sound like those of a lifelong philanthropist. It's hard to comprehend that an individual with such a generous and kind-hearted nature was just 24.

We "older folk," like those of every generation I suppose, lament how "modern parents" don't instill the self-discipline, character and common sense we claim into the generations that follow. Hill, in NFL parlance, was a throwback. The Boston Herald's Jon Tomase offers this story of Hill's childhood in East New Orleans and the life lessons his single mother Sherry Hill taught him.

Another Jon Tomase pieces illustrates more of Marquise Hill's old-school personality, related by his fiancee Inell Benn, talking about her and Hill's 20-month old son Ma'shy.

"Marquise didn't have a father," she said. "What he had with Ma'shy was so natural. Ma'shy knew who his dad was. Even if we were a long distance apart, he'd see a picture of Marquise and hug it and say, `That's my daddy.'" There has been much discussion when players come into town about players being a Patriots-type or Bill Belichick-type of players. Men of character. Hill certainly was one of these.

The loss of Hill will be truly and deeply felt in the communities where he lived and by the league.

That loss is reflected in the tribute paid Hill by those who knew him best. Patriots teammate Jarvis Green, also a teammate on the LSU Tigers, broke down speaking of Hill during TV interviews and in this interview with the Herald's Karen Guregian.

Green noted how tragic Hill's death was in the sense that it was completely preventable.

"A freak accident like that. I don't think anybody's ready for that," Green said. "But I think there's a lesson in there for everyone. Like the guys who don't wear helmets when they ride motorcycles. It's the same thing. Think before you make decisions." And so we mourn the loss of someone the likes of whom the world could use a whole lot more.

How unhappily coincidental that Hill's death should come to light on a day (Memorial Day) when we honor the memory of heroes who gave their lives that others might be free.

* * * * * * * * has a short video tribute to Marquise Hill. The tribute contains a video statement by team owner, chairman and CEO Robert Kraft.