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The Patriots have been playing all year with the number 91 on the back of their helmets. That is for teammate Marquise Hill who drowned at Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana last May 27th. Jarvis Green who was a teammate of Hill at LSU has been wearing his shoulder pads all season as a reminder of the late defensive lineman.

“When I pull them over my head, it’s like I’m putting on a little part of Marquise, you know?” Green said. “I mean, I know he’s not here, but I put those pads on to honor him and to keep him and his memory close to me. It’s funny, but with LSU winning [the national championship] again, and us being in the Super Bowl, you feel like Marquise somehow has a hand in this.”

Green also has a pregame ritual that involves Hill. As he waits in the tunnel to take the field he reaches to the back of his helmet and rubs the 91 decal and remembers his fallen teammate.

Hill’s memory has provided players with some additional motivation.

“With this team, and what it has accomplished, you expect to win,” said cornerback Randall Gay, another LSU product, who was Hill’s roommate for road games and was on hand when officials pulled the defensive end’s body from Lake Pontchartrain. “But for the guys who knew Marquise really well, and who were really tight with him … yeah, there’s some extra [motivation] involved, for sure.”

Marquis HillHill was a 2004 sound round pick from LSU and key piece in LSU’s 2003 National Championship and the top rated defensive lineman out of high school but with the Patriots was underachieving and saw more time on the inactive list than on the field on game day.

“He always had something funny to say,” fellow defensive end Ty Warren said. “He made you smile a lot, and I think that, more than anything else, is what you miss. Marquise was just a good guy, a good person, fun to be around.”

Said tailback Kevin Faulk: “He was just the kind of person who would do anything for you.”

Hill left behind his fiance, Inell Benn and their two year old son, Ma’Shy and the house he bought for them in Bellingham, MA is for sale. Benn now lives in Austin, TX and is working as a nurse’s aid as she pursues a nursing degree.

In the Patriots locker room at Gillette Stadium, Hills jersey and pants hang in his locker, someone placed a “2007 AFC Champions” baseball hat in their last week.

“When you walk past his locker,” strong safety Rodney Harrison told The New York Daily News last week, “it really kind of puts things in perspective. It makes you think a lot.”

It’s a given that the Patriots will be thinking of Marquise Hill on Sunday when they take the field.