This is an article from the Jan. 31, 2011 issue
BROWNS RUNNING BACK
In his first season after being traded to Cleveland, the former Bronco became the first white back to rush for 1,000 yards in 25 years
Dan Patrick:Are you paying attention to the playoffs?
Peyton Hillis: Not really. I've been looking at them, and it makes you sick knowing that you can't be in them. It's kind of hard watching them.
DP:What is it about the Steelers that concerns an opponent?
PH: Defensively, the Steelers are pretty dang good. You have to run right at them. No outside zones, stretch and cut runs—those aren't good against them.
DP:This was the final year of your contract, right?
PH: I'm just a restricted free agent.
DP:So the Browns will give you a nice raise?
PH: Hope so. Yes, sir.
DP:Who decided that you were expendable in Denver?
PH: To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I wouldn't know. When I left Denver, I started new and fresh and really didn't care to know.
DP:Were you angry?
PH: At first I was, but then I tried to create a new start in Cleveland.
DP:Did they talk about making you a fullback instead of a runner?
PH: In Denver they wanted me to play strictly fullback, nothing else. I wasn't too happy about the situation, but I was trying to be a team player. I just wanted to be on the field.
DP:Do you understand the whole novelty of being a white running back in the NFL?
PH: No, sir, I don't. I try not to see color. I just like to go out there and play my hardest because I know a lot of people don't have a lot of faith in me. Even if you have a good year or bad year, they're going to criticize you and say you're not good enough. It just gives me the motivation to go out there and do better.
DP:It's not necessarily color. You're built like an offensive lineman. Your arms are as big as [Browns tackle] Joe Thomas's, aren't they?
PH:[Laughs.] I don't know; we really never measured.
DP:Could you bench Joe Thomas?
PH: Yes, sir. I could bench Joe Thomas.
PH: No, sir.
DP:The novelty is there, though. If you look at running backs with 1,000 yards, it's a pretty short list.
PH: Yes, sir. Since the season's over, I haven't heard too much about it. But during the season, people would come up to me and tell me how exciting it was to see that. And it made me happy to know that I can give people hope.
DP:It's got to be weird when somebody comes up and says, "Hey, thanks for being a good white running back."
PH: I don't think they say that exactly. But you kind of read between the lines.
DP:Did anyone give you grief? You're facing a lot of talkers: the Steelers, the Ravens, the Jets.
PH: Yes, sir. Every team did.
DP:What would they say?
PH: "White boy, you ain't gonna run on us today." "Why are you giving an offensive lineman the ball?" Stuff like that. I use that to my advantage. I kind of soaked it in, ate it up, because I enjoy it.
DP:The best nickname I heard: the Avalanche.
PH: I heard a lot of nicknames. I heard that one, I heard White Rhino, I heard Chuck Norris. Heck, I've heard it all.
• Battle Royal
I asked Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley (above) who would be the last man standing if all 11 members of the Steelers D went into the Octagon. "Every guy," he said. "Every guy would come out. Every guy on our defense is tough, hard-nosed. You can't take out one. A lot of people would say James Harrison because of the way he plays. You could say Troy Polamalu. You see the way I slam quarterbacks, the way Lawrence Timmons hits. Everybody is that aggressive."
• Tough Talk
Among those who were quick to defend Jay Cutler after he came out of the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury was Warren Sapp. The NFL Network and Showtime analyst pointed out that Cutler has taken plenty of licks in the past: "Listen, man, you don't question someone's desire. You don't do that. Jay Cutler ran the option at Vanderbilt his freshman year. You know you get your butt kicked in the SEC at Vanderbilt, right? They build rockets at Vanderbilt; they don't play football. So let's not question Jay Cutler's toughness."
• Line of the week
I asked Michigan State coach Tom Izzo if he regretted turning down the Cavaliers last summer. He told me, "Only when I go to the bank."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Jason Taylor of the Jets discusses his future.
2. Minnesota's Jared Allen on his mullet and Brett Favre.
THE FINE PRINT: President Obama was planning to go to the Super Bowl if the Bears won. Now he's a little bitter. He wants Congress to repeal health care for Jay Cutler.