By Jared Janzen
HALSTEAD—Halstead resident Patrick Oliver had the experience of a lifetime last Saturday, throwing passes to Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
“The first route, I completed a pass to Tyreek Hill,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of people who can say that, besides Patrick Mahomes. Now Patrick Oliver can say that.”
Oliver was one of about 40 volunteer coaches at a football camp in Wichita put on by the Chiefs superstar, and it was in between working with the hundreds of kids in attendance that Oliver started to build a friendship with Hill.
“He came back and was like, ‘I really like you and I like being over here because you know exactly what you’re doing, and it shows that you care about being here,’” Oliver said. “We started talking again, and he was guarding the kids, having a fun time with the kids and having a fun time with me. It was the experience of a lifetime.”
The opportunity to coach at Hill’s camp started last December when Oliver and his wife, Amy, decided to buy a ticket to the camp for their son, Bryson Horine, as a Christmas present. Then two weeks ago, Oliver’s wife got an email asking if she knew anybody interested in volunteering at the camp.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to say, ‘Hey, put me down as a coach and see if I get picked,’” Oliver said. “The next morning, I got an email saying I’ve been chosen to coach at the Tyreek Hill camp. With that news, I got all excited.”
Oliver coaches a third and fourth grade tackle football team in Halstead.
“I was just thinking that I’d be helping out with drills and putting my two cents in and it not being a big thing,” he said.
Oliver said there were 44 different drills, and kids would rotate between stations throughout the morning to learn different skills. He volunteered to work with the defensive backs, since that’s what he played in high school.
“What I was doing, I would give the wide receivers a route and let the defensive backs cover them and work with their hips, keeping their butt down and turning with the receiver towards the route,” he said.
He estimated he threw more than 500 passes that day.
About 30 minutes into the camp, Hill showed up at Oliver’s station.
“He comes up to me and was like, ‘Man, this is one of my favorite drills,’” Oliver said, adding that even though Hill is a wide receiver, he told Oliver he loves working with defensive backs during Chiefs practice.
“We just started talking like we were old friends,” Oliver said. “It was one of the most humble experiences I’ve ever had in my life with a professional athlete. As you can see in some of the pictures, we were just standing there talking. It was like we were best friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, just catching up.”
Hill then offered to run a couple routes thrown by Oliver. On one of the routes, Hill told Oliver to launch the ball as soon as he started running.
“This guy took off, and in the snap of a finger he was gone,” Oliver said. “He was standing right next to me, and in a snap of a finger, I couldn’t see him.”
Even with all that speed, Hill wasn’t quite able to catch the pass, which Oliver estimated went close to 50 yards.
“I’m one person who could say I overthrew Tyreek Hill by about two yards,” he said. “He came back laughing and was like, ‘Man, I’ve been thrown to by a lot of quarterbacks, but I don’t think I’ve ever been overthrown.’ He was laughing about it. It was a good time.”
About an hour later, Hill returned to Oliver’s station, and they talked some more as they continued working with the kids. His theory as to why he and Hill felt a special connection was because the Chiefs aren’t actually Oliver’s favorite football team.
“I think that’s what helped me with it,” he said. “I wasn’t starstruck. I treated him like a human being, not like a superstar. I didn’t treat him like a professional athlete; I treated him like a friend, and I think that’s one thing he really like and that’s why he kept coming back to my drill.”
Oliver added that his wife is a die-hard Chiefs fan, but he himself prefers the Dallas Cowboys. He’s had opportunities to meet their quarterback, Dak Prescott, and former tight end Jason Witten.
Oliver’s big takeaway from the day was that Hill is a humble human being.
“I know there’s probably some people out there that have some bad things to say about him, where he was in the news, but I know for a fact, just meeting this man and his persona that he showed toward the kids was absolutely amazing,” Oliver said.
Oliver added that his son, Bryson, also had absolutely loved the football camp.
“He got to meet Tyreek in the photo opportunity and gave him a high five,” Oliver said. “[…] As an overall experience, he had a blast. He said he learned a lot, and that’s what we took him to the camp for, to develop more football-minded skills.”