As a high school senior in Arkansas, Peyton Hillis ran for 2,631 and 29 touchdowns on 261 carries. That year he won the Landers Award, which is given to the top high school football player in the state of Arkansas.
He chose to play football for the University of Arkansas, where he was used more as a lead blocker for Darren McFadden than as an actual running back. The Razorbacks would never use him as a featured back. Even with a very limited number of carries (4.7 per game), Hillis was able to make an impact. His average yards per carry during his career as a Razorback was 4.7 and he scored 12 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 11 touchdowns.
In 2008 he was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Once again, Hillis was used sparingly for much of the year. That is, until injuries forced Mike Shanahan to give Hillis a more prominent role. Over a four-game stretch toward the end of the year, Hillis carried the ball 57 times for 305 yards and five touchdowns. In a game a couple weeks prior to that outburst, he caught seven balls for 116 yards and a touchdown.
An injury prematurely ended Hillis's rookie campaign, but Denver fans were excited to get him back for the next season. Enter Josh McDaniels. Hillis carried the ball 13 times in his second season, and first under McDaniels. He was packaged in a trade for Brady Quinn the following offseason.
Now, Hillis plays for the Browns where he is more appreciated than he was under McDaniels' regime. However, he is still underused. Here are the stats of the Browns top two backs through the first two weeks of the season:
Hillis outperforms Harrison and is a more versatile back. He can block, catch and run for power much better than Harrison. Coming out of college, Hillis ran a 4.57 second 40-yard dash while Harrison ran a 4.47. So, Harrison is a bit faster.
All around though, Hillis brings more to the table. The Browns offense is more effective with him than it is with Harrison.
Peyton Hillis has proven multiple times that he has what it takes to be an elite running back at any level. So why don't his coaches utilize his talent?
In today's world, there is a stigma that follows white athletes everywhere they go. They are considered slower and less athletic than their African-American peers before they're even given a chance to prove otherwise.
It's common knowledge that a white man cannot play running back, wide receiver or cornerback: the "skill positions". There are players who are proving this wrong, but the stigma is still there.
We want to believe that we are a society that has come beyond racial issues. The simple fact of the matter is, we aren't. These racial stigmas are all over sports: white man can't jump, black men can't play quarterback or hockey, etc.
Scouts, coaches and management all over the world of sports still include race as part of their evaluation of talent. That practice should have become outdated long ago. A blind assessment made on the basis of one's skin color is unfair to the player and the fans.