Family and friends gathered Saturday to remember John Hill, a former star center for the New Orleans Saints who moved to Raleigh for a decades-long career in insurance.
Hill, who died Oct. 21 at age 68, played 14 seasons in the NFL before moving with his family to Raleigh.
He was drafted out of Lehigh University by the Giants and played three seasons with New York, from 1972-74.
He then played 10 seasons under six different coaches with New Orleans, from 1975-84.
Six of his seasons with the Saints were spent snapping for former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, who reflected on the perseverance of Hill on Wednesday, NOLA.com reported.
“He played through different coaches and interim coaches and maintained his job,” Manning said, according to NOLA.com. “That’s not always the case if you change coaches like we did, which we did often then. A lot of times (new coaches) clean house; you get your own people. It was a credit to John, to his play and his consistency. John, he was consistent.”
Hill recalled those times during a 2016 interview the Saints used to produce a recent “Legends Spotlight” profile on him.
“That definitely presented a new challenge each time that we had a coaching change: You had to prove yourself again,” Hill said in the interview. “But it happens. You work with what you’re dealt with. For me, personally, it made me the man I am … learning how to overcome obstacles and keep going forward with your goals in mind.”
Hill is 20th on the Saints’ all-time games played list, with 138 appearances and 134 starts, according to the club. He was a 1992 inductee into the Saints Hall of Fame, and was named to the Saints’ all-50th anniversary team in 2016.
After his playing career ended with a season with San Francisco, Hill shifted to a 32-year career as a State Farm insurance agent.
“He enjoyed working on the family horse farm, tinkering in his garage, golfing with his friends, and spending time with his wife, children, grandchildren and his dog Cooper,” his obituary read. “His family was the greatest joy of his life.”
Hill is the son of the late Otto and Liz Hill of Raleigh. He is survived by his wife, Denise Hill; daughter Lauren Haberkorn and her husband, Marc; daughter Megan Dooner and her husband, Rob; and grandchildren Laney and Gracelynn.
A memorial service was held Saturday at Soapstone United Methodist Church. The family has asked people to consider donating to causes close to Hill’s heart, including The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins and the Concussion Legacy Foundation.