When it comes to Peyton Hillis, don’t let appearances fool you.
When I had the chance to see the Browns first-hand a couple of weeks ago, they weren’t ready to win consistently. But that seems to have changed in recent weeks, and one of the biggest reasons why is Hillis, one of the Browns I was very impressed with.
When I first met Hillis, he shared that his father told him he would need to be the hardest-working player on the field if he wanted to make it. Hillis grew up on a farm and learned the value of hard work, and while his father never gave him anything, he carries this advice with him to this day. We can see it in the way he runs the football.
I can’t help but think that if there has ever been a perfect marriage between a player and a city in recent seasons, we’re seeing it with Hillis and Cleveland.
Hillis is a born and raised Arkansas boy, but you would swear he’s from Cleveland. He fits the city perfectly. He’s tough, gritty, blue-collar and doesn’t ask for anything. He’ll battle you in every way. He’ll run over you, he’ll run around you, he’ll jump over you and will even run past you when he needs to.
A lot of people want to compare Hillis to Mike Alstott, who was a terrific player. Ultimately, I think if Hillis stays healthy and is blessed with a long career, he will prove to be better because he has a more versatile skill set than Alstott. That’s no knock on Alstott.
There’s something about Hillis that a lot of people are missing. When you look at him, what you see is a fullback. But to me, he’s a feature back. The Browns can use Hillis in every situation and he should be a primary ball carrier. He can stay on the field on third downs, can catch the ball out of the backfield and is also terrific in blitz pickup.
Don’t let him fool you, because Hillis is a tailback in a fullback’s body. What’s great to see is that the city of Cleveland has embraced him, and made him one of their own.