Last year, the Ravens were willing to take a chance on Will Hill, signing him to a low-risk deal during training camp knowing he would have to serve a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Over the past year, Hill has proven himself on the field and, equally importantly, off it. He's earned the Ravens' trust, and on Thursday, they showed their faith.
Baltimore signed Hill to a two-year contract that will keep him under contract through 2016. Hill was slated to play this season on a restricted free agent tender and hit the open market next offseason.
"When I first signed [last year] and sat down with [General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome], I knew from that point I didn't want to go anywhere. I wanted to be a Raven," Hill said.
"This extension helps out. It gives me a lot of confidence on the playing field and it helps me see what this organization thinks of me. You go to most places and it's just a business. Even though it's just a business, it's more family-oriented around here."
Over the summer, Hill admitted to being a bit of a partier in his earlier NFL years with the New York Giants. He said that once he got into the NFL, he suddenly had the funds to do what he wanted to do, and he enjoyed it a little too much.
Things have changed since he was released by the Giants on June 2, 2014.
Hill spent nearly every day of this offseason at the Under Armour Performance Center, arriving at 5:30 a.m. to work out in the gym and chat with coaches as much as league rules would allow. In* *his spare time, he bowled and hung out with his family.
Once training camp started, Hill brought his family to practices. Hill estimates that about six members, including his seven-month-old daughter Brielle, came every day and sat just a few feet away from Newsome.
Just this week, Hill's father visited and told his son that if he ever received an extension from the Ravens that "all that off-the-field stuff has got to go."
"That's been playing through my head every day," Hill said.
Hill and Newsome walked off the field together Thursday afternoon and Newsome congratulated the fourth-year safety on his new deal. Then Newsome said, "Now it's time to take it to the next level and try to win a championship."
Hill is a major piece of the Ravens' improved secondary. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Florida product has been one of the defense's top performers in training camp and is far ahead of where he was last year when he jumped into the mix late.
After serving his suspension last year, Hill still started eight of 10 games, made 42 tackles, four passes defensed and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown against Drew Brees and the Saints.
Now Hill and free-agent addition Kendrick Lewis have a chance to do even more damage this year.
"To me, I think we're a deadly combo," Hill said, adding that they complement each other well because he and Lewis can play both safety positions.
"From a personal aspect, you dream about making money. It's a weight off my shoulders just to think about making money. Now it's just full-fledged championship. It's time to take it to the next level. That's the ultimate goal."