This time last year, Patrick Gill went into every practice wanting to do whatever he could to win the starting quarterback job on the Bishop Hendricken football team.
This year, he’s using the same mindset.
“Coming into the season, you have to think your job is still up for grabs,” Gill said. “You’ve got to work your best all off-season and just keep fighting for your job.”
That mindset served Gill well last summer, and it’s why he’s gone back to it this year – even though he probably doesn’t need it.
Gill won the quarterback competition last year and steadily became a key player for the Hawks, going from game manager to viable offensive threat as the year wore on. The season ended with a third straight Super Bowl championship.
It was quite a year.
“He’s been one of those great Hendricken success stories,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft. “He’s the type of kid you pull for – the underdog a little bit, kind of how we push ourselves as a team.”
Gill checked in at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds last year, not the prototypical size for a state championship quarterback. He had taken zero varsity snaps and was set to replace a player – Ryan Brannigan – who had spearheaded a monumental upset of La Salle the year before.
And on paper, a lot of people assumed he wasn’t the favorite to win the job. Among his counterparts was John Toppa, a sophomore whose family is football royalty in Rhode Island.
But when the dust settled and the Hawks took the field for their season opener, Gill lined up under center.
He never really left.
“At the beginning, I came into the new role after the amazing Super Bowl win we had,” Gill said. “We had a lot of guys back, especially on the offensive line. In the beginning, I felt a little shaky. Once we got it going, it was amazing.”
Gill was admittedly just one cog in Hendricken’s chugging offensive machine. At times – like in a semifinal victory over Cranston East – Gill’s primary job was making sure his running back got the hand-off.
But he made his share of plays too. In the Thanksgiving Eve win over Toll Gate, Gill rushed for 43 yards and two touchdowns. He completed eight of 14 passes in the Super Bowl upset of La Salle and rushed for 23 yards.
“He’s a good leader and a good teammate,” Croft said. “We’re obviously happy to have him back.”
Gill will be back at the controls this season, and he and his teammates don’t plan to rest on their laurels. Hence the fighting-for-his-job mentality.
“I’m more comfortable, knowing how to read the routes better, more power into the football, more explosiveness when I’m running,” Gill said. “I think I can be better.”
Gill’s situation will mirror the team’s. The Hawks were breaking in a lot of new skill players last year, but had a veteran offensive line to lean on. It’s the opposite this year, with players like Gill and fellow senior Remmington Blue ready for center stage.
“Being a senior, I know I have more experience to help the younger guys,” Gill said. “We have a lot of our good skill guys back. We know what we can do.”
Now the Hawks will try to do it.
“We know going in no team has won four in a row,” Gill said. “The seniors down to the underclassmen – we’re all hungry to help us win another state championship. Everybody’s hungry.”