The New King of Cleveland

By Will Burge

There may be a new king of Cleveland and he is part rhino. Peyton Hillis held a free meet and greet for fans at the Barley House downtown after the Cavs game on Wednesday night and took the time to sign every autograph for every person who waited in line.

Men and women alike waited patiently and with bated breath to meet the man who many believe personifies football in the city of Cleveland.

Hillis has a new line of clothing called Rhinoback, and it is available for purchase. You can check out the t-shirts (which are pretty damn cool) and the rest of the line at Rhinobackfootball.com.

I had a chance to catch up with Peyton after he was done signing autographs.

The very first thing I needed to know was where the name “Rhinoback” originated.

“It’s because I don’t look at myself as a running back or as a fullback. I’m kind of a crossbreed and I kind of defined my own position and that’s Rhinoback,” said Hillis.

So he’s half man and half rhino, but 100% in the midst of a coaching and offensive system change. The switch to a west coast type offense does not bother him. In fact, Hillis does not feel there is any need to switch his running style to accommodate the system.

“I had been in the system in my first year as a rookie. I don’t think the running style really changes. I am who I am and I will continue to be that.”

One of the main components of the west coast offense is having a running back that can catch passes out of the backfield. Peyton Hillis does this with surprising ease for a 240 lb running back.

He is excited about the prospect of catching the ball in space, but knows that no matter what happens the end result is most important.

“I do (get excited about it). Anytime you can get your hands on the ball it’s great. But we’re looking forward to winning. I just want to be a part of it and with wins come a lot of other great things. If you get the ball great but it doesn’t matter as long as you win.”

The other half of the change that Hillis will undergo is a brand new head coach. Pat Shurmur is not only the new head coach of the Browns but he is a new head coach, period. Joe Haden told me that when he met with the coaches there was a “great vibe.” Hillis seems to feel the exact same way.

“I met coach Shurmur awhile back. He’s a great guy, he knows what he’s talking about. Just talking to him for a few minutes you know he’s the kind of guy you want as your head coach and I’m looking forward to learning underneath him.”

As I talked with Peyton in the back VIP area of the Barley House, fans watched and took pictures as if he was the fifth member for the Beatles. The support and love that he is receiving from the Browns fan base is exactly why Peyton plays the game so hard.

“It’s about Cleveland, it’s about these fans, and it’s about this town. There is really nothing else I want to do more than give this town a winner and help this team win. Because you see the look on people’s faces and you know how happy winning makes them. I think they want a winner real bad and that’s what we want to give them.”

Earlier in the night, Browns safety TJ Ward jumped on stage and gave Hillis a hug as he was making his way through the never ending line of autograph-seeking fans. It seems that everywhere you go in Cleveland, there is not one but two Cleveland Browns players. There seems to be a camaraderie and togetherness among the Browns players that has not been felt for quite some time in Berea. Hillis knows that he suits up with a special group of guys every Sunday.

“No doubt we have a bunch of great guys. We are real tight group and we have a bunch of team unity.”

To listen to this interview in its entirety here: http://www.stationcaster.com/player_skinned.php?s=70&c=545&f=71526

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2 Comments

  1. The young man Peyton Hillis is a mirror of the hard working blue collar winners that makes our city great. Hail to the new King!!!!! Kick Pittsburgh’s A$$!!!!

  2. Great piece Will.

    On Peyton:

    270 Rushes and 61 Rec. last season after being written off as useless. Flat out athlete who makes plays. The problem? His salary is in the ball park of $392,000. That is roughly 60% lower than our Kicker ( who I believe we franchise tagged).

    Because this is Cleveland only 2 options lay ahead:

    1. Peyton plays so hard for a contract this year, while attempting to jump over Defensive Back, he is…

    2. Peyton has another dominating season, gets paid and his chizzled 250 lbs. frame slips to 265 lbs. by the following mini camp.

    Sure hope I am wrong.

    P.S. If we don’t draft a pass rusher, I wiil lose it.


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