Through the good times and bad in life, Stephen Hill always keeps a smile on his face.
The Jets rookie WR has had a share of unforgettable and forgettable moments during his first year as a pro. In his NFL debut on Sept. 9 against Buffalo, he recorded five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. But he also played in four games this season in which he was held without a catch.
So a reporter asked an interesting question Wednesday: "What is it like to be Stephen Hill?"
No. 84 responded, "It's relaxing, nerve-wracking. But you have fun in the end, I guess."
It's certainly been a much more fun atmosphere inside the Green & White locker room this week. The Jets picked up their first victory in 35 days with their 27-13 win at St. Louis. Thursday they will host a very familiar AFC East foe: the New England Patriots.
When the teams met back on Oct. 21 in Foxboro, Hill dropped a crucial pass on third-and-4 with just over two minutes remaining in the contest. At the time, the Jets were trailing, 23-20, but were driving inside the Patriots' 25-yard line.
"It's easy to forget about," Hill said, "but it's not easy to just understand that it could have put us in a different situation."
The Green & White ended up losing the game in overtime, then dropped their next two games, falling to 3-6. Hill, since his costly miss, has only two receptions for 29 yards in the Jets' last three games.
"It's nerve-wracking, as young as I am," the receiver said. "But honestly, I've been through a lot of things of this caliber with injuries and stuff like that. But other than that, these guys in the locker room have been helping me out a lot. They're staying behind me. From the coaches to everybody around here, they're just making sure I'm doing OK and I'm not feeling sad."
Hill dropped another pass Sunday, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan still was able to observe something positive from his receiver's play versus the Rams.
"I was impressed with the way the young man blocked," Ryan said. "I know that's a little thing, but for us, it's a big thing."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez hasn't lost faith. Sanchez believes Hill has all the skills, tangibles and potential to be an excellent pro for many years to come.
"He's doing fine," Sanchez said Monday. "He'll learn things on the fly. It's not an easy position to come in and play. He's working his butt off, that's the most important thing, and he's not getting down. He's still a positive kid. He's still working hard and doing everything he possibly can."
Hill knows he isn't alone in what he's going through. Several rookies over the years have had up-and-down first seasons. He said he's spoken plenty with linebacker Bart Scott because Scott has seen so much during his career.
"Basically, I just don't get down on myself," Hill said. "Of course, you're going to correct yourself and get mad at yourself at that point, but basically dwelling on that issue, I don't do that a lot. I just let that go, understand the situation and get back out there and do better."
The Jets' second-round draft selection said he worked with Sanchez after practice Tuesday and believes that he and his QB are almost on the same page. He is just hoping that the catches he produces on the practice field will soon transfer to catches on the game field.
"It is difficult switching up a little bit from a certain offense to this type of offense," he said. "But other than that, it's not difficult at all."
For the Jets to earn a victory Thursday, Hill said the offense can't afford to turn the ball over. He added that in a way, he is viewing it as a "get-back" game, due to the earlier defeat and his crucial drop. And while he can answer his critics with an impactful performance on Thanksgiving, one thing that surely looks to never leave his side is the confidence he carries within himself.
"I don't lose confidence at all," Hill said. "I had several things like this happen in my life, so it's just like another walk in the park. You're just going to have to take it and live with it. That's just life."