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Hill remembered fondly at funeral

NEW ORLEANS -- Marquise Hill had a lot of fans -- in life, not just football.

His funeral service Saturday at the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church revealed that. So many mourners came to pay homage to the Patriots defensive end that folding chairs filled the aisles of the church, where he was remembered as a jocose, diligent man who defied the entitled athlete stereotype.

"He's smiling right now," said Patriots defensive end Jarvis Green, who served as a pallbearer. "He's smiling right now. He's seeing everybody that came out, his friends, his family, his teammates. They're all here for him."

Hill drowned following a Jet Ski accident last Sunday. He and a friend, whom the New Orleans Times-Picayune identified as Ashley Blazio, were knocked off Hill's Jet Ski by rough waters in Lake Pontchartrain. Hill's body was discovered in the lake Monday. Following the funeral service Saturday, he was laid to rest in Restlawn Park Cemetery.

Green was one of three friends of Hill who spoke during the service, along with Hill's agent, Albert Elias, and Cincinnati Bengals center Ben Wilkerson, who won a national championship with Hill at Louisiana State and was his roommate there for two years.

An emotional Green said he met Hill when Hill was an 11th grader. Green talked about how Hill had dealt with obstacles in New England; despite all of his hard work, he saw little playing time (13 games in three years). But Green said Hill never changed as a person.

"He made me laugh the first time I met him and the last time," said Green.

In addition to Green, Patriots players Kevin Faulk, Eric Alexander, and Randall Gay attended the service and were listed as pallbearers. All four players attended LSU and all but Faulk played there with Hill as well as in Foxborough.

Nearly the entire Patriots team traveled to New Orleans Friday for Hill's wake.

"I wish that the Patriots could have stayed so that some of the guys who didn't know him could have seen this," Green told the gathering.

Addressing Hill's mother, Sherry, Wilkerson pointed to the current and former LSU players in attendance, which included Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai, and told her that she should consider them all her sons because Hill was their brother.

"We all came here as a family," said Wilkerson after the service. "We're a family outside of football."

Gwaine Mathews, who coached Hill at De La Salle High School, said family was always the most important thing to Hill, who left behind his mother, his grandmother Elmira Bennett Hill, his fiancee, Inell Benn, and a 20-month-old son, Ma'shy.

"He would always ask before games, 'Coach, have you see my momma and grandmother?' " recalled Matthews, now a college coach. "And I would say, 'Yes, Marquise. They're in the stands.' "

Elias, Hill's agent, also recalled what a hard worker Hill was, something Patriots assistant strength and conditioning coach Don Davis had commented on at Hill's wake.

"He'd be up at 5:30 a.m., calling me on the phone, blowing me up for an hour because I wasn't working as hard as him," said Elias.

During the eulogy, the church's senior pastor, Bishop Paul S. Morton, said those who loved Hill should take some solace in his passing: "He's on God's football team now, a team that never loses."

Elias implored the Patriots to honor Hill by continuing to do what they usually do: win.

"I think everybody knows that," said Green. "They came [Friday] to give their respects. They're a first-class team in the way they did everything. The family really appreciates that and we got a lot of support from all the guys there. Marquise will be with us forever."