Tyreek “The Cheetah” Hill Is On The Prowl And Chasing Greatness In The Magic City

Tyreek Hill

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia


Tyreek Hill

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

      Tyreek Hill has a secret. Or, should I say, rather, he had a secret (sorry, Tyreek). The newly minted Miami Dolphin wide receiver has slyly kept a home in the Magic City since 2018 — back when he was still very much an integral part of the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’ve had a place here for about four years now, but nobody really knew about it. You’ve got to be very discreet with what you do,” the 28-year-old athlete sagely confides during our May Zoom call.

Hill has been biding his time and plotting his move for years now. First, he rented. Then, he purchased a place in south Florida, but sold it after buying a  $1.3 million mansion in Lees Summit, Missouri, during his tenure with the Chiefs. But he just couldn’t quit Florida, and so he decided to invest in a Southwest Ranches mansion. Which, in the end, was the right call. “I’m just happy I don’t have to leave now!” he declares.
Hill, a Pearson, Georgia, native, finally got his wish to become an official Miamian on March 23, when he was traded to the Dolphins. It was a big win, and not just because of his love for the location alone: his transition was a huge financial score given that he signed a 4-year, $120 million extension, including $72.2 million guaranteed, earning him the distinction of now being the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.

To be honest, as much as he loved his years in Kansas City — where he played exclusively for the same team he was first signed by in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft — Miami is much more his speed. And when your nickname is “the cheetah,” that speed is superfast.
“Man, this city is always alive!” he enthuses of his now-permanent home. “There’s never a dull moment. There’s plenty of variety here as far as food, as far as people, as far as clubs, or whatever the case may be. You literally have a diverse situation with everything. There are so many cultures, so many things to learn. I just love it out here.”

It’s his vibe all day, every day, he says. Beach, sun, fun, repeat — especially in the off-season, when he and his kids can loaf on the sand, and he can play beach volleyball to his heart’s content. “I can literally stay on the beach all day,” he admits. “I’m chilling, catching nice vibes, getting that vitamin D year-round, baby!”

Hill’s excitement is palatable, but it also seems to be his natural state of being. Exuberance, excitement, and inexhaustible joie de vivre spills out of him like sweat. But really, what isn’t there to be happy about? The sun is shining, he’s surrounded by friends and family, including his mom, who’s currently in the kitchen making him chicken, and it’s the off-season, so he’s allowing himself the luxury of “eating like crap” with copious amounts of Popeyes and a plethora of glazed donuts. All is right with the world. 

Yet, as exciting as it is, moving to Miami isn’t all fun and games for Hill — he’s got a purpose in being here, after all. Despite having won a Super Bowl with Kansas City (LIV in 2020), his extravagant paycheck, having been selected to six Pro Bowls in six years, and being named to the NFL2010s All-Decade Team as a punt returner, he still has something to prove.

“When I first came into the league, there were a lot of people who wrote me off, a lot of people who said I couldn’t do this or that, that I was too small. Even now, after I got traded by the Chiefs, people are saying, ‘Your game is going to decline because you left playing with the greatest quarterback of all time.’ I’m like, ‘You guys literally have no idea. You clearly don’t watch football, huh?’ I just don’t deal with it or engage because the internet is always ready to attack if you say something on Twitter.”

So if he’s not launching counterattacks or jumping jungle cat-like on his opponents, how does he drown out the noise? “I just chill and laugh, man,” he says. “The way that I think about it is this: I know at the end of the day that people are going to talk regardless of if I’m doing good or bad. When I was in KC, they were talking. Now that I left, they’re still talking. So you just have to tune it out and make yourself proud. That’s something my mom told me, my grandparents told me, and that’s something that I live by. You can’t make other people happy; you’ve just got to make yourself happy. I feel like being traded to the Miami Dolphins, being able to show people who I truly am, my personality, show them who I am outside of just being a football helmet, is basically me doing that — making myself happy. I’m chasing my dream, my goals, until I get to the top — and the top is the Hall of Fame career.”

Hill says, that as he’s matured as both a person and a player, his love of the game has only increased, and his drive to succeed along with it. “When I was younger, in elementary, middle school, high school, and college, my main goal was just to make it to the NFL. As the years went by, my passion for the game began to grow; I began to understand it more and understand how quick it can go. How fast you can get hurt, how fast you can get traded, how fast you can get cut. I began to respect the game even more.”

Regardless of what naysayers and keyboard warriors might say, it’s all love between him and his former team, and which he has no problem avowing. The longer he’s in the league, the more the phrase “for the love of the game” applies — and the guys he hit the gridiron with for the last six years can take a lot of the credit. “I played with arguably the best tight end in the game, Travis Kelce, the greatest quarterback of all time, Patrick Mahomes, and [had] one of the greatest coaches, Andy Reid. It’s just been a blessing to have those guys in my life and to have helped mold me into the player I am today. Before them, I was just another guy who was happy to make a play or two on ESPN, you know? But now I’m more mature, more of a vocal leader, and I’m like, ‘Hey guys, we need to go out there and win this game.’ I’m a big-picture guy now. I understand that everybody has a role, and that’s how championship teams are built.”

Tyreek Hill
Louis Vuitton
JEWELRY: Tyreek’s own

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia
Which is, of course, his current priority: bringing that sweet, sweet Vince Lombardi trophy to the Magic City. And he wants it, he says, as much for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as he does for himself. “I go into work every day, man, and I look at Tua. He’s such a hard-working dude. A lot of people don’t give him credit for what he has done in his career. And then I see him out on the practice field, and he’s tremendous. He can put the ball anywhere on the field, standing in one spot. I just want to see him play, man, and play by his side. That’s part of the reason why I chose the Miami Dolphins — I wanted to play with the lefty.” [Tagovailoa being an anomaly as a left-handed quarterback].

One might assume from this effusive praise that he and Tagovailoa are closer than can be, but ironically, in reality, they’ve only just met. When Hill was traded to the team, he tracked down the QB’s digits, got in touch, and “the rest is history — we’ve been talking ever since. He’s a good dude,” Hill says.  “You can sense that when you’re around him; you can feel his energy, which is genuine and pure. I can’t ask anything else from a man. He’s a good friend, and a good teammate to have on and off the field. I can always count on him.”

He’s not the only one. Hill immediately found himself in the position of having a solid crew in his new teammates, who welcomed him into the Dolphins fold with open arms. Take today, for instance. He and some of the guys were meant to be hitting the high seas, chilling on a boat, but choppy waters disrupted their plans. Instead, later, he’s bowling with his homies.

“We hang out all the time,” he shares of the guys who have been patiently waiting for him to make Miami his permanent home before throwing him an official “Welcome to the Magic City” rager, which apparently is on the agenda for the coming weekend. Except that said wild night is going to look a lot less like an evening at LIV and a lot more like a quiet dinner and a day on the golf course. Which suits Hill just fine.

“I feel like [being here] is less of an introduction and more like a homecoming, because I knew most of these guys before I was even playing for the Chiefs. I’ve thrown numerous parties here, and a bunch of the Dolphins have even shown up for my birthdays, so really, being around them isn’t new. When I first walked into the locker room, it was like, ‘Hey, man.’ [Gangster nod.] Hey.’ The guys already knew it was coming. I kind of felt like I was going to get traded here, and I feel like everything happened for a reason.”

Hill is a big believer in fate, and only time will tell what it holds for him in Miami. So watch this space…

Tyreek Hill
JEWELRY: Logan Del Monico, Miami

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia

TYREEK HILL WANTS THE RECORD TO SHOW THIS: He is not a small guy, even though he may look like one on TV. The camera may giveth 10 pounds, and also, apparently, it can taketh away — especially when you’re standing next to a behemoth like 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive guard Nick Allegretti.

Tyreek and I are literally talking about anything and everything. Our conversation leapfrogs to topics like Mercury retrograde, his die-hard dedication to beach volleyball, his love of travel (naturally, the beachier the destination, the better), and his typical 10-plus pounds of happy, donut-related off-season weight gain. Now, the conversation has turned to what he feels is the most surprising thing about him. In his opinion, his height is the one thing that seems to shock and awe all who meet him. And not, as it happens, his lack of it.

“I’m bigger than I might look!” he swears. “I feel like most people see me and be like, ‘Hey, you like you’re the same height as Kevin Hart or something.’ When people see me on TV, they think I’m 5 feet 5 inches, but when they see me in person, I’m like f***ing tall. Well, not tall, but kind of tall. I’m 5 feet 9½ inches, 195 pounds. They’re like, ‘Man, you’re kind of big. That’s crazy!’”

I tell him to watch out for those donuts we were both waxing poetic about earlier — his favorite: strawberry, cream-filled, glazed (oh my!). “Exactly, man,” he says with a laugh. “I will look like Carl Winslow, not Kevin Hart, for real.”

So OK, as a football player in his prime, a physical metamorphosis into the Winslow family patriarch might not be the doppelgänger he hoped for, but, just like Winslow, well, family matters. (Dear readers, please forgive me for this segue).

“The greatest luxury in life is my kids, man,” Hill proclaims. “My kids motivate me each and every day. People always ask me who I do it for, and it’s those four munchkins right there, man.”

He’s got mad love for his little ones: son Zev, 7, twins Nakeem and Nylah, and son Khai, all 3 years old. But as the only girl, Nyla is definitely the apple of her father’s eye. “She changed my life,” he declares. “She gave me a whole new perspective on how I look at life. Before I had my daughter, people would tell me I was such a hardass, a tough guy. But after, she just softened me up. I’m like a teddy bear now. Literally, she gives me the Puss ‘n Boots eyes, from Shrek, and then literally I just break down and give her anything she wants. If you want to say she has me wrapped around her finger, you’d be right — she does. And I never thought I would see the day.”

I beg to differ. Though he’s young, the importance of family in Hill’s life isn’t lost on me — he references his kids, mother, grandparents, and sister often throughout our chat. They’re his biggest fans, and he, theirs. Whatever he does, whatever ventures he undertakes, he tries to make family affairs. That includes working with his self-named Tyreek Hill Family Foundation, which helps at-risk youth reach their goals, as well as his most recent venture, a transportation service, that came to be after he sold a short-lived trucking business side hustle last year. He’s even planning on hiring his sister, Jordan, as a full-time assistant to run Uber à la Hill.

“I’m always trying to find ways to put my family and friends in the right situations without actually handing them money, because I don’t like to give people $10,000 just because I’ve got it. I say, ‘Hey, do you want a job? You can drive this [SUV], or you can drive the van, but you’ve got to go get your chauffeur license, and then you’ve got to go get your gun license so you can be able to provide security.’ I’m always trying to teach people instead of giving them the easy way out. That’s the way my grandparents taught me. I was never given anything. I always had to work for it.”

This is one point on which he’s very clear: Nothing in life is worthwhile if you haven’t earned it. “Success doesn’t come easy,” he maintains. “That’s something that my grandparents and my parents always taught me. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to work like you’re the best. Talent isn’t going to always get you where you want to be at.”

The lesson that was instilled in him early on is one that he definitely plans on passing down through the generations. “That’s something that I tell my 7-year-old, Zev, because he’s beginning to play football. And you know, when you get to be 6, 7, 8 years old, you begin to feel yourself. So, my son scored one touchdown, and he just thinks the world owes him. He’s like, ‘Dad, you see that? I deserve a PS5.’ And I’m like, ‘Son, come on — that’s not good enough. One [touchdown isn’t] enough for us; we are better than one.’ So I try to set the tone for my kids. Besides prowess on the field, his mini-me is also giving young Tyreek Hill vibes in one very specific way. “I would say he’s a lot like me, especially when he loses. He hates to lose — he’s like, the worst sort of loser ever. He won’t shake anybody’s hand. He won’t talk to you. So, yeah, he’s just like me.”

When I express surprise — Hill, like the Southern-born man he is, peppers his speech with a plethora of platitudes and yes ma’ams in a gracious way — he hastens to add that the bratty Tyreek of yesterday is firmly in the past, where he belongs. “As a kid I was definitely like that, but no, not now,” he swears. “You kind of grow up out of that once you get to a certain age.”

Now, when he loses, he has a different mentality, especially when that loss means the end of a season. “Typically I really don’t do anything, man. I just thank God for allowing me to play the game and bless my family. And then, me and my whole family will go on a vacation and enjoy each other, somewhere like the Maldives, where I can sit on the beach and drink mimosas. Then I’m cool. I try not to get so tied up in it. I know how much I love this sport and how passionate I am, but I don’t want to sit there and cry, because there’s literally nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do if I get mad. So I just try to control what I can control, and that’s just being happy in my own space.”

That’s kind of his motto for life, his ethos, and how, most important, he lives up to his famous nickname. He explains, “When you think about the cheetah, it may not be the most dominant animal in the land, but night after night, it’s still running, still out there hunting. It has that mentality of ‘Maybe I won’t catch my prey right away, but I’ll keep going.’ I have that same mindset — I never give up, no matter what, until I catch you.

That’s who I am as a person. [Adopting] the cheetah way of life is to be passionate about what you do. Love every second, love every moment — and chase greatness. But most especially, love yourself. Make sure you look in the mirror every single morning and say, ‘I love you. I love me some me!’ — just like Terrell Owens used to say. That is all you need.”

A winning strategy indeed. One might even say it’s magic.

Tyreek Hill
JACKET: Dolce & Gabbana
SHORTS: Balmain
SUNGLASSES: Tony Brown Collection JEWELRY: Logan Del Monico, Miami

Photo Credit: Nick Garcia