Images of quarterback Taysom Hill tearing through defenses (especially Texas) in a No. 4 will live in BYU football lore for decades.
He may not make the same kind of jaw-dropping plays in the No. 7 — Hill’s embroiled in a competition with 2015 breakout performer Tanner Mangum — but the No. 7 will live with him forever.
Hill tweeted Thursday night he plans to wear No. 7 in 2016 to honor his older brother, Dexter, who died in March. Dexter Hill played at Dixie State College and Northern Iowa. He passed at just 31.
For some, the jersey swap’s a touching story worthy of a quick blog post, ultimately forgotten. For Taysom Hill, the number isn’t just stitching on a shirt. That number will be woven into his spirit forever.
I know because I’ve been there.
Those who follow me on Twitter — and if not, why don’t you? — know I have the digits 45. I would hazard to guess the vast majority never gave the number a second thought, though Roger Lodge asked me on his radio show, “Why 45?”
I noted it was my number when I played high school basketball and made a crack about my ability. Truthfully though, I was pretty good. I set my school’s career records for 3-pointers and assists, earned All-State recognition in my small-school division and garnered scholarship offers from a handful of lower-division universities.
I was good — but not as good as Scott Kensing. My older brother was a 6-foot-7, low-post banger who dominated the glass and played with a physicality I never quite developed a taste for. He once broke an opponent’s nose setting a perfectly legal screen.
He played center, but could step out and shoot from deep. He was a stretch-four before stretch-four was a thing. He could have played Div. I, but various circumstances got him away from basketball. I suspect the clinical depression that claimed him at just 19, when I was 13, played a role in the premature end of his basketball career.
My competitive career ended because I knew my ceiling and wanted to focus on journalism in college. I kept No. 45 as much a part of my life as possible, though, adding it to instant messenger screen names, wearing it in intramural leagues, and so forth.
Being able to honor Scott’s memory any time I put on my jersey meant so much to me, in part because he helped me learn and love the game. The same’s true of Taysom Hill and Dexter.
“We spent a lot of time in the front yard,” Taysom told the Idaho State Journal.
Few things are as special for a little brother as those times in the yard playing together. That No. 7 will be a living embodiment of those days for Hill, in 2016 and beyond.