The third-year running back out of Arkansas would lead the Browns in rushing with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hillis’ performance during the 2010-11 season would help him land the cover of the popular football video game franchise, Madden 12.
Hillis play on the field drew rave reviews from fans everywhere, one couldn’t help but wonder, whom Hillis and his bruising hard-hitting style most resembled.
Minnesota running back, Adrian Peterson and Tennessee running back, Chris Johnson are the most well-known and popular backs, Hillis managed to revive a unique spot long forgotten in today’s NFL.
The white running back.
White running backs are not new, since there have been standouts at that position in John Cappelletti of the Los Angeles Rams and John Riggins of the Washington Redskins, there has only one well-known white running back, who has played in the NFL since 2006, Mike Alstott of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The last white running back to play in Cleveland was Tommy “Touchdown” Vardell, whom the Browns drafted out of Stanford in 1992.
Hillis and Alstott both are the same height at 6’1 and around the same weight, Hillis at 240 and Alstott at 248. Both of them have also played both running back and fullback in their careers as well.
During Alstott’s career in Tampa Bay he was very effective as a bruising compliment to the speedy Warrick Dunn. Alstott would rush for 5,088 yards, the second-most in Buc’s history and all-time leader in touchdowns with 71, while averaging 3.7 yards a carry.
Hillis during his brief three year career has rushed for 1,574 yards and 17 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards a carry.
Both Hillis and Alstott were supposed to be the power components in their respective backfields, they were both able to really use their talents in the West Coast Offensive system—(WCO).
In the West Coast Offensive System, running backs are used as extra receivers for the quarterback, and running backs must have steady and reliable hands when catching the ball out of the backfield in screen plays or flare-outs.
Hillis was the second leading receiver for the Browns in 2010—who ran a run-heavy offense with West Coast Offense elements under former offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll—with 477 yards receiving along with two touchdowns. Cleveland will run a true West Coast Offense under new head coach, Pat Shurmur in the 2011-12 season
Alsott would amass 2,284 yards receiving along with 13 touchdowns in The Buc’s West Coast Offensive System under—then—head coach, Jon Gruden.
The numbers are not so similar between the two players, their blue-chip, workman-like attitudes are mirrors of each other, on and off the field.
Hillis made history in becoming the first white running back since Craig James—who rushed for 1,227 yards in the 1985-86 season with the New England Patriots— to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Hillis may never be seen as among the likes of Green Bay Packers running back, Jim Taylor—the last white running back to lead the NFL in rushing, in 1962—Hillis can be looked at as a modern-day pioneer and future inspiration for other white running backs in the NFL—such as Minnesota Vikings second-year tailback, Toby Gerhart—as more than just the next great white hope.