Peyton Hillis: Alstott 2.0?
By Dave Ford
Is it possible that lighting could strike twice in Tampa Bay? For 12 years, one man in the backfield struck fear in the hearts of every opposing defense. He rumbled and stumbled over, through and around defenders like they were tackling dummies. He was even known to pull full-size jeeps uphill as part of his training. His mortal name is Mike Alstott, otherwise known as the “A-Train.”
Since the original No. 40 retired in 2008 following a career-ending neck injury, the Bucs as well as the rest of the NFL have not seen the likes of a massive running fullback in the mold of Alstott. He was simply one of a kind. Or was he?
On July 23, the Buccaneers signed veteran RB Peyton Hillis to a one-year deal. Just one inch taller and two pounds heavier than Alstott (6-1, 248 pounds), the former Madden NFL cover boy could be the second coming of the “A-Train” in Tampa Bay. Of course, the phrase ‘could be’ is used loosely, considering Alstott was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, a four-time All-Pro selection and scored the first ever touchdown in a Super Bowl for the franchise. By the time he hung up his cleats for good, Alstott had rushed for 5,088 yards on 1,359 attempts for an average of 3.7 yards per carry.
Now a member of his fourth team after having played for Denver, Cleveland and Kansas City since entering the league in 2008, Hillis has some big shoes to fill in a backfield that was once ruled by half of the “Thunder and Lightning” connection during the Bucs’ glory years of the late 1990s and into the early part of the new millennium. In total, Hillis has played in 65 NFL games, amassed 2,470 yards and 21 TDs on 597 carries. He has also caught 111 balls for 867 yards and three additional scores.
At 27, and now completely healthy once again since his career-best year of 2010, Hillis has the potential behind starting RB Doug Martin to cause major damage on the ground for the Buccaneers in 2013.
But can he be Alstott 2.0? Not likely.
If Hillis can cause half the havoc on the field as his predecessor, the Bucs will have gotten their money’s worth for one season.