Vikings' Priefer talks about the surprise potential of Holton Hill as a returner

Hill returned kicks in the preseason finale after Mike Priefer heard of Hill returning punts in high school.

EAGAN, Minn. -- Holton Hill was certainly on the roster bubble as the Minnesota Vikings looked to cut down to the regular-season, 53-man roster after joining the team as an undrafted free agent.

Hill was in a tough competition at cornerback, his natural position coming out of Texas, trying to prove his potential to the defensive coaches daily. Hill might have undersold himself to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.

Early on, Priefer polled the players on whether they have return ability. Hill didn't raise his hand.

It wasn't until later when Priefer read that Hill had been a returner in high school. Priefer watched some tape and told Hill he made a mistake in not speaking up.

"I was teasing him that he didn't tell me the truth when he first got here because I asked, 'Raise your hands anybody that has return ability,'" Priefer recalled on Thursday. 'He didn't raise his hand and I found out by accident when I saw some high school tape of him returning the ball. I was like, 'What, are you crazy?' You're a good returner.'"

So, Priefer gave Hill a chance in the fourth preseason game where Hill had a 53-yard kickoff return and four punt returns for a 7.8-yard average.

"He doesn't know all the ins and outs, not even close yet, but he did a great job against Tennessee," Priefer said. "I was proud of the way he ran the ball. He runs hard. He's tough. Ball security is not where we need it to be yet, but he's getting better."

Priefer and the Vikings go in feeling strong about their options at returner, where first-round rookie Mike Hughes should get the first chance at kickoff returner and steady veteran Marcus Sherels returns as the top punt returner and an option on kickoffs.

But Hill will get a chance to continue his work in all special teams' phases, including returning where he was part of the group in Thursday's portion of practice open to the media.