Football was a part of Anthony Hill's life for as long as he could remember. After attending Hargrave Military Academy and North Caroline State, Hill was overjoyed when his hometown team, the Houston Texans drafted him in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
"Playing for the Houston Texans where my family and friends would be able to watch me play again, was a dream come true," Hill said. "I could not have imagined a better start to my football career. One of the first things I learned when stepping on the field was that everyone was at the top of their game, everyone was bigger, stronger, and faster than in college."
Family was everything to Hill, particularly after a cancer scare while he was away at college. In 2006, Hill's oldest sister was diagnosed with sarcoma in her arm. Sarcoma is the general term for a broad group of cancers that begin in the bones and in the soft (also called connective) tissues (soft tissue sarcoma). Soft tissue sarcoma forms in the tissues that connect, support and surround other body structures. Her sarcoma had gone undiagnosed for seven years up, terrifying Hill and his family.
"I was devastated," Hill said. "I assumed she was fighting for her life and there was nothing I could do about it. I remember the moment I realized that if I was this worried, she had to be terrified. I began to check on her more often and got to know her beyond the big sister I grew up with. We still hangout regularly to this day. With God's grace she's been in remission now for 15 years."
After his first few seasons in Houston, Hill had stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL tight end built lasting friendships wherever he played, experiencing all the highs and lows of exciting wins and losses while playing professional football. Following his final season with the Colts in 2012, Hill decided to hang up his cleats for good.
"After different injuries, a couple of knee surgeries and months of recovery, I realized that my career was coming to an end," Hill said.
In 2020, Hill would have another brush with cancer when his Uncle Brian was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This time, the diagnosis was far grimmer.
"When I found out about the diagnosis I immediately Googled the survival rate of people with this type of cancer, while driving in my car," Hill said. "The search said there was a 96% death rate within six months. I pulled over on the side of the ride and cried. I knew that he'd want me to be strong and go on about my day, but this one hurt more so much because my uncle is like a father to me."
Hill felt he had to encourage his uncle now, as the roles reversed. The two became even closer, talking multiple times a day. While Brian fought hard, he ultimately lost his battle with cancer nearly three years later on Oct. 11, 2022. Hill learned some valuable life lessons watching his family's struggles with cancer over the years.
"Seeing what it did to my family and the family members who were diagnosed, made me more conscious of overall health and the importance of spending time with loved ones," Hill said.
A retired professional NFL player, Hill continues to work out, make better decisions on his food choices and take care of his overall health. But Hill's story doesn't end here, he adds. Today, the Friendswood native is the CEO and owner of Grammer Construction.
"I was able to use the mindset I had built, the connections I made, and any additional resources from the NFL for life after football to start a life for myself and my family that I am proud of," Hill said. "My son has just started little league football and I'm excited to experience the different life lessons that sports will teach him."
According to the American Cancer Society, regular screening can help find certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be treated successfully. Learn more about cancer screening at CancerScreenWeek.org.