Memorial Day. Those who gave their lives as part of the armed forces – those who saved hundreds of thousands while doing so – will be remembered today across the United States. In New England, this act of remembrance also coincides with thinking of another person that gave his life while saving one: Patriots defensive lineman Marquise Hill.
On Memorial Day 2007, the 24-year old was found dead. The previous evening, May 27, he has been reported missing following a jet ski accident. Shortly after Hill and a friend boarded the vehicle on Lake Pontchartrain north of New Orleans, rough conditions caused the jet ski to capsize, throwing both passengers – neither wearing a life jacket – into the water.
While Hill was a good swimmer, his companion was not. As Hill's agent reported afterwards, the Patriots defender tried to assist and calm her until she was able to grab onto a buoy. But while Hill was thus able to help save his former high school classmate's life, he himself could not save his. He was lost in the currents and not found until 17 hours later.
"He was a hero until the end," Hill's cousin later told the Boston Herald. "He thought of others first. He was just that kind of person." Those statements were echoed by others who knew him well. "Marquise was a very respectful young man who worked hard to improve and was always eager to contribute to the team, both on the field and in the community," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said after Hill's death.
After a three-year career at LSU, which included a national championship, Kraft's organization selected Hill in the second round of the 2004 draft. He went on to appear in 14 games for New England as a rotational defensive end and special teamer and earned one Super Bowl ring. After his death, the Patriots paid for Hill's funeral, which the team collectively attended. It also honored him by putting a #91 decal on the helmets.
When not playing football, Hill was active in the community. Whether it was in the Boston area or his hometown of New Orleans, recently devestated by Hurricane Katrina, he was part of multiple charitable organizations and events. Furthermore, he and his fiancée were raising a son, who was two years old at the time his father's life abruptly ended.
11 years later, Marquise Hill's death still is a tragic part of Patriots history – one that should not be forgotten. As should the man, who positively impacted lives on and off the field and who gave his own saving another.