Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Football Wrap Week 14: Peyton Hillis Is a Great Story

I've been waiting for this blog for a month. Y'all know that I've been watching Peyton Hillis closely as he's racked up the yards every week. Now he's finally made some history as the first white tailback to cross 1,000 yards since Craig James did it in 1985.

(Speaking of James, I peeped that 30 for 30 doc on the SMU football program - he and Eric Dickerson were ahead of their time as a two-back tandem. But it confirmed two things. 1) cheating is older than dirt, 2) outsiders will never get love unless they go balls out and demand it and even that ain't enough)

Hillis (1,070 yards and 11 TD's) has been one of the only things good for the Browns this year and I remember hearing about him 2 years ago when he had a great game for Denver as a rookie. Now he's in Cleveland running around like a bowling ball with Southern speed (4.58 speed at his Pro Day? Not bad). As good as the Patriots have been, they gotta have visions of him running all over them. 184 yards and 3 TD's, the greatest day for a white tailback in 50 years as I looked up.

However, some folks are saying "why make a fuss about him being white. He's a player straight up. Screw race." Unfortunately for y'all, I'm not colorblind and in case you haven't noticed, the white tailback is almost a thing of the past on the pro level and on major college teams. Plus, people think that you can't give genuine props while also acknowledging the uniqueness of their achievement.

ESPN's Jemele Hill wrote this story two years ago about the lack of white tailbacks in pro and college. As the game has gotten faster, the White bruiser is a thing of the past. So let's face it - seeing a White guy finding success in the pros is rightfully surprising.

I grew up watching Mike Alstott rumble as a fullback for Tampa Bay get his due. The running back with the most yards in California prep history? Toby Gerhart - who proved that recruiting him as a fullback was asinine as he ran all over the West Coast the last two seasons at Stanford. I rode hard for Gerhart because watching him run, I knew he'd have a solid NFL career based on skill overcoming stereotypes.

This HS season, I covered more teams with white tailbacks and while the speed wasn't always there, I respected them being gritty and how they ran the ball hard. They finished their runs and it was effective in their team's system. A stark departure from covering the speed of the inner-city but broadened my view.

The more I see Hillis, I see beyond stereotypes. I see a great running back who just happens to be white. But to not acknowledge him in his success for being white is no different than failing to see President Barack Obama being black.

He's not the Great White Hope or some BS propaganda piece you should rally around cause he's "like us" (too bad SI did this with Patriots RB Danny Woodhead, who I've also been impressed with). He's not a novelty either. Dude proved his worth and it's time to give him his props as one of the best surprise stories. A great tailback who is white, not the other way around. Don't be afraid to bring up his race, just make sure you respect the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment