On Monday night’s football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants, the NFL world saw the rebirth of a player who only a few years ago was considered a game-changer. That’s right, I’m talking about Peyton Hillis, former star running back and Madden NFL 2012 cover athlete.
In 2010, as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. In addition, he also had 477 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns. Injuries struck him in 2011, limiting his production to just 587 yards and three touchdowns in only ten games. He signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, only to back up Jamaal Charles in his best season yet. Hillis began this season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was released by the team not even one month into the season. In his time in Tampa, Hillis was active for only one game and had zero offensive yards.
At this point, it seemed that Peyton Hillis might not ever be the same again. His type of slow, powerback play may now seem to be a thing of the past, and his recent injury history makes him a liability. Some might attribute this regression to the “Madden Curse,” which suggests that appearing on the cover of the game causes an early end to your career (which has proven not to be true of all cover athletes. Keep in mind Drew Brees, Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, and Larry Fitzgerald were all cover athletes). Some might say he simply overachieved in Cleveland.
But then, just last week, a struggling New York Giants team reached out to Peyton Hillis. The team with the worst rushing attack in the NFL was starting to become desperate, and re-signing a washed-up Brandon Jacobs certainly wasn’t proving to be the answer. Since the passing attack was almost as pathetic and worthless as the rushing attack, the New York Football Giants were going into Monday Night Football 0-6. At this point in the season, why not take a risk on someone like Hillis?
Peyton Hillis, during that Monday Night Football game, was spectacular. He had 81 yards of total offense (36 rushing, 45 receiving) as well as a rushing touchdown to boot. With the help of Hillis, the Giants were able to secure their first win of the season.
To be fair, the Vikings played pretty horribly that night. Still, the fact that Peyton Hillis was able to be a game-changer in an important win for the New York Giants shows that he still has gas left in the tank. He may not be elite or pro-bowl level, but he has proven once again that he is a great NFL player who deserves to always be on a team. This week, we witnessed the possible rebirth of a player who just a few years ago showed signs of having a great future. On Monday Night Football, Hillis reminded us why he was on the cover of that Madden game in the first place.