The object of the rookie defensive tackle’s momentary preoccupation was Saturday night’s preseason home opener against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field, a vaunted venue whose reputation as a noise factory has become the stuff of NFL folklore.
“It was just a cool experience having that on a road game,” Hill, the team’s third-round draft choice, said Friday after the team’s final practice before the home opener. “And I was actually thinking about that just after the game last week. Like, ‘Alright, just how real is this going to be next week?’ ”
Make that real loud, as the 12th Man will generate the appropriate roar to greet this team in this season of heightened expectations – even if it is “only” a preseason game. The fans flocked to training camp practices at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in staggering numbers, but this will be the team’s first appearance at CenturyLink Filed since the 2012 regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams – before the Seahawks posted the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 by beating the Washington Redskins in a wild-game game and then came within 32 seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game in a two-point loss to the Falcons in Atlanta the next week.
Hill will start against the Broncos at the three-technique tackle spot and also play on the nickel line used in passing situations, coach Pete Carroll said. So Hill will be on the field when even a preseason crowd will make hearing difficult for future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos’ offense.
But then noisy stadiums are nothing new to Hill. He went to Penn State, where the Nittany Lions play at the 107,282-seat Beaver Stadium.
“I’m coming from one of the loudest stadiums in college football,” he said. “So I’m excited to see how loud this place can get.”
And the legend of CenturyLink has been ringing in Hill’s ears since he arrived.
“I’m excited just to see what it’s all about,” he said. “I know the fans all around here are always crazy and loud, even at practice. But I’m just ready to see what it’s really all about.”
Hill isn’t alone. This also will be the CenturyLink baptismal for the rest of the draft class – fellow defensive lineman
“Any time that we play before the 12th Man it’s crucially important,” Carroll said. “And we need to represent it. It was an enormous factor for us last season to win all our games at home. The crowd is a big part of that, and that’s the truth.
“And we need to play to the opportunity. So we do make a significant, hopefully, impression on these guys that we want to play our best and bring our best game when we’re playing here. That brings out the best in our fans and is a factor to help us win. So it all works together and we have to do our part, for sure. So there’s a lot going on messaging-wise.”
Hill will try to approach the chaotic atmosphere with calmness, but the anticipation is there.
“You don’t ever want to get yourself too excited and overwhelmed, and make the situation bigger than it is,” he said. “But it’s going to be a cool experience.”