Players like Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers may bet the bulk of the attention and recognition but pound for pound, no player has had a better year that the Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis, still a young 25, was a little thought of 7th round pick in the 2008 NFL draft who went from being buried on the depth chart in college to being buried on the depth chart for the Denver Broncos before finally getting a chance to shine for the Cleveland Browns.
In his first full season with the Browns, Hillis exploded on the field, mowing over players for over 1100 yards. He displayed a power running style, soft receiving hands and a total disregard for his own personal safety that adhered him to the hard nosed fans of the Browns. That popularity reached a fever pitch recently when Hillis was one of the athletes selected to take part in a voting contest to see who would be the next cover-athlete for the new Madden football game set to come out later this year. He defied the odds throughout the 6 week voting process, beating out the before-mentioned Rodgers and Vick, to claim the title and the honor of being on the cover of a Madden game.
Just don't expect him to fall to the curse of that position.
“I don’t believe in curses,” said Hillis. “I could get hurt next year, but I don’t believe it has anything to do with the curse. I’m a Christian man and I don’t believe anything could be put in front of me that God can’t take away. I would love to prove everyone wrong and have an exceptional year and not get hurt.”
Hillis, along with every other NFL player, has been waiting to see what is going to happen with the lockout and the new CBA and while the extra rest has been nice, he sees the importance of getting back on the field as soon as possible.
“The benefit is you get to rest your body a little bit more and you spend more time with your family,” he said when asked his thoughts on the lockout. “The disadvantage is you may not stay in the right shape like you always need to be in.
“And if you have a new coach like we have, you’re not in there learning the playbook. You have less time to learn stuff. You need to get the timing down between the quarterback and receivers. It takes a little time to get that situated, and this lockout is definitely hurting that.”
While the Browns finished only 5-11 last season, Hillis is a major reason for Cleveland fans to feel hope for the future of the franchise. His ability, combined with a positive team attitude, is exactly what a young team needs to turn things around.
“I don’t think we’re that far away,” Hillis said. “With Coach Shurmur and the draft, it could be this year or three years from now. But we’re definitely getting back to the playoffs.”
Photo credit – AP