Hill remembered for his smile

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Monday the Franklin Broncos basketball team got together to remember a fallen brother, Martinez Hill, 22, who died on Friday night after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.

Turn back the clock four years, and Hill would have been in that same locker room, said then Broncos head basketball coach Danny Dillon.

Martinez Hill (No. 2) was a good athlete when he was at Franklin High School, according to principal Travis Felts. -- FILE

Martinez Hill (No. 2) was a good athlete when he was at Franklin High School, according to principal Travis Felts. — FILE

“Martinez was certainly a hard worker in basketball, but his biggest attribute was his smile,” he said. “He always had a big smile, and he was always encouraging the other players.”

Dillon returned to that locker room when Franklin was getting ready to face Park View.

“I was able to pray with the JV and varsity basketball teams last night,” he said of Monday evening. “I was just trying to bring it around, that it’s not just about basketball.

“Martinez was in that locker room just four years ago, and he was out on the court giving it up. Here we are four years later talking about this tragedy. You just never know when your last day is coming.”

Hill has two children under 4 years old, and the coach said as soon as he found out the news, he began to pray for Hill’s family.

“When you hear that kind of news, you feel for all of the people involved,” Dillon said. “Not only was Martinez’s life ruined, but so was the person’s who shot him. And so were his kids, who will never know him.”

Travis Felts, Franklin High School principal, was Hill’s health and physical education teacher in tenth grade, and he also taught him driver’s education.

“I can still remember where he sat,” Felts said. “He was always happy and he had a great personality. That’s probably why I can remember exactly where he sat in class, both in the driver’s ed room and in the gym. He liked to joke and play a lot, but he was a good guy.”

Brenon Artis was an assistant coach at the time Hill was on the team, and he too remembers Hill’s smile.

“He was always a joy to see,” Artis said. “One memory I have is that he always had this huge smile on his face. Every time I saw him, he’d always come up and hug me. It was unfortunate. He was a great kid from what I saw.”

Felts also expressed how difficult this was for the community.

“When I first heard about it on Saturday morning, I hoped it wasn’t true,” he said. “He was such a popular student and such a great athlete. He was well liked by students and faculty. This is just a tragedy that has happened.”

Dillon said he knew that Hill was part of the street life, but that he had been working hard to try and get out.

“He was trying to get a job, so that he could get off of the street,” he said. “When I would see him in the neighborhood, he would always tell me, ‘Coach D., I’m going to provide for my family. I’m going to be a success.’

“He was trying really hard to separate himself from what may have ended up taking his life.”

Violence was not something that Hill was prone to, Dillon said.

“That was not indicative of him — he was not one who would try to stir up trouble,” he said. “He loved people, he liked being around people, and he was always very respectable, always addressing people with ‘sir,’ or ‘ma’am.’”

The former athlete, also known as “TT,” was also a great team player. Hill always showed class and great sportsmanship.

“He was always encouraging the fellows, always trying to keep everybody in the game,” Dillon said. “If we were winning, he wasn’t the type to rub it in the opponent’s face. And if we were losing, he wasn’t giving up.

“He was just a really, really nice young man. It was really tough to hear the news.”