By Jeremy Weiner
Recently, Cleveland sports fans were reunited with their nightmare: LeBron James. When James decided to take his talents to South Beach, Cleveland was left in shambles. The leader of a potential championship Cavaliers team was gone. The Cleveland Indians were one of the worst teams in baseball. The Cleveland Browns had no star talent in the organization.
Until a man by the name of Peyton Hillis put on a Cleveland Browns uniform. Peyton Hillis has one of the greatest stories in football history. At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, he would become one of the top running backs in the National Football League and a bright spot for a desperate franchise.
Peyton Hillis was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. He was listed as the starting fullback so he could continue his run-blocking duties. His chance to shine at the running-back position came when starter Ryan Torain went out with an injury. He made the most of the opportunity, racking up 129 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He was nominated for Diet Pepsi Rookie of the Week. Things were looking up for the young and bulky halfback.
His solid season continued until he suffered a season-ending injury, tearing his right hamstring. This led to an 8-8 finish for the regular season and Mike Shanahan was fired due to lack of playoff appearances. Former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was hired for the head coaching job.
Denver had been known to be terrible on the ground, so McDaniels added more depth at that year’s draft. In the first round they drafted Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno. Unfortunately, this led to less playing time for Hillis, who became frustrated and said his future in Denver was “up in the air.” His career-changing moment came on March 14, when he was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a sixth-round pick and quarterback Brady Quinn. I wonder who got the better end of the trade.
His role in Cleveland was similar to the one he had played in Denver. He saw himself blocking for the main halfbacks, Jerome Harrison and Montario Hardesty. Both feature backs were injured and Peyton’s chance to shine came once again. In Week 3 of the current NFL season, he received the starting nod at running back. He will never leave that spot, and he will most likely be the Cleveland Browns’ running back for the rest of his career.
Peyton Hillis is putting together a Pro Bowl year, with 905 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s every Fantasy Football owner’s fantasy. When Denver was looking for a rushing attack, they never realized the answer was right before their eyes. He’s even gotten MVP consideration by NFL analysts.
With Cleveland getting snubbed by former idol LeBron James, the city has dealt with some difficult times. But with the rebirth of Peyton Hillis, maybe a city that had no hope has finally been given something to cheer about.