Rookie SF-Native to Get Big Chance Sunday

Jason Hill had breakout 7 game catch Monday night

Jason Hill knows the San Francisco 49ers' history from personal experience, and the young receiver finally is getting his chance to write a small part of the next chapter.

After Hill's breakout seven-catch game against Arizona on Monday night, the second-year pro and San Francisco native is expected to get plenty of playing time again Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Arnaz Battle and rookie Josh Morgan both have been ruled out for the game because of injuries, leaving Hill and recent practice-squad signee Dominique Zeigler as the top backups to Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson.

San Francisco has had one of the NFL's least impressive groups of receivers for four straight seasons now, but Hill, Morgan and even Zeigler seem capable of bringing some respectability back to town.

"I've got big dreams and aspirations," said Hill, who went away to Washington State before coming home on draft day. "I grew up in the city watching Jerry Rice and John Taylor, so being in the same locker room that those guys ran, it's some big shoes to fill, and that's just one step."

Hill had just one catch in five games as a rookie, and Zeigler didn't even get on the field. Both were in the lineup against the Cardinals, and Hill had a couple of remarkable grabs during his 84-yard performance while Zeigler got his first NFL catch for 22 key yards in the fourth quarter.

It's no coincidence that both players did well on throws from Shaun Hill, the 49ers' longtime backup who was promoted to the starting lineup. Though they aren't related, Jason Hill and Shaun Hill know each other well.

"It's more than just sharing the last name," the quarterback said. "He's come on here, and he's been playing well. That's a guy over the last couple of years that I've had a chance to throw a lot of balls to with the scout team and in practice. I guess there's a little bit of ... familiarity with him, but he came in and he played well, and he has to keep that going."

Jason Hill wasn't born until exactly one month after the 49ers' second Super Bowl victory in January 1985, but he fell in love with football at Candlestick Park, the 49ers' aging home. He vividly remembers games with Rice and Steve Young, and he stuck with the team through its slow decline during the past decade.

Unlike most of his teammates on a club seemingly headed for its sixth consecutive losing season, he knew the tradition he inherited when San Francisco drafted him last year.

"You dream of it, but you don't dream of it, if you follow what I'm saying," Hill said.
"There are 32 teams in the NFL. You never dream that the one team that you grow up cheering for will pick you."

Zeigler made his NFL debut in the background of Hill's standout performance, playing a bit on special teams before making his first catch on a tough play across the middle. Zeigler always looks impressive in practice, but he hadn't persuaded coach Mike Nolan to give him a chance on the active roster -- but he got the promotion from interim coach Mike Singletary after Battle's injury.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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