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Aubrey Hill, former Florida player and coach, dies at 48

Hill passed on Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Florida Gators Orange and Blue spring football game Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Aubrey Hill, whose career as a Florida Gators wide receiver coincided with the rise of the program to prominence, died Sunday after “his long battle with cancer,” according to Florida International.

He was 48.

Hill had been working as FIU’s wide receivers coach under head coach Butch Davis since 2017, his time with the Golden Panthers serving as a return to the college ranks in the Sunshine State at the end of a coaching career of nearly a quarter century that began almost immediately after his graduation from Florida.

During his playing days, Hill served as a key target for Steve Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n Gun” offense, amassing 1,454 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns from 1990 to 1994 and playing in 11 or 12 games in each of his final four seasons with the Gators.

His seven receiving touchdowns and 16.5 yards per reception as a senior in 1994 were among the SEC’s top 10 marks in each category, though he ranked third on Florida’s own deep roster in catches (behind Jack Jackson and Chris Doering), second in yards per catch (behind Reidel Anthony), third in receiving yards (behind Jackson and Anthony), and tied for second in touchdowns (with Doering) that fall. And while Doering famously caught a touchdown pass from Danny Wuerffel that kick-started the latter’s career, and Anthony became part of a legendary trio along with Ike Hilliard and Jacquez Green, Hill toiled mostly as a strong secondary option in the Gators’ prolific passing attack.

His knack for scoring touchdowns, though, was legendary: He did so at a rate of one six-pointer per just under every fifth catch as a Gator.

He would have more prominence as a coach — for reasons good and bad. After serving as a graduate assistant under Spurrier, Hill embarked on a sojourn that would take him to Duke, Elon, and Pittsburgh — where he missed tutoring future NFL Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald by just one year — before he returned to his native Miami to join Randy Shannon’s coaching staff. Hill would ultimately also become Shannon’s recruiting coordinator before his 2010 firing, allowing for Florida hiring him to Will Muschamp’s staff as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator to be seen as a coup in 2011.

But Hill’s role in assisting Miami booster Nevin Shapiro provide “illegal” help — specifically, in Hill’s case, providing rides to recruits in a fellow coach’s Escalade — to Hurricanes players and recruits led to an abrupt resignation from Florida’s staff in 2012 and the NCAA eventually handing Hill a two-year “show-cause” penalty in 2013, halting his collegiate coaching career.

So he would head home again, taking on the task of being the head coach at Miami’s Carol City High, his alma mater — and having success few could have imagined. Despite sharing a district with national powers Miami Central and Miami Northwestern, Hill led the Chiefs to a 30-16 record in four years at the school and piloted them to a 2016 state title that garnered him consideration for national high school coach of the year honors.

Hill would leave for the collegiate level again after that title run, spending less than a fortnight on former Florida assistant Doc Holliday’s Marshall staff in 2017 before Davis hired him as FIU’s wide receivers coach in March of that year.

And the old Gator would get one more triumph over his hometown team in 2019, as FIU upset Miami by a 30-24 score late in the year — with two Hill pupils each recording six catches, 70 receiving yards, and a touchdown in an upset State of The U dubbed “the worst loss in program history.”

Hill’s passing was mourned widely on social media on Sunday, with Davis giving a statement through FIU.

“It was a shock to learn of Aubrey’s passing tonight after his long battle with cancer,” Head Coach Butch Davis said. “Aubrey was loved and adored by so many who saw him not only as a coach, but as an amazing husband and father. We mourn his loss, but we will also hold on to the great memories he left behind and how honored we all were to be a part of his life. We pray for his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”