Monday, April 18, 2011

Peyton Hillis, Michael Vick two finalists for Madden Cover

The Cleveland Browns haven't been to the playoffs since 2002, and have had just three winning seasons since 1990. But, when it comes to Cleveland's fan base, they are as strong as ever.

With the 32-player tournament to determine the NFL player to grace the cover of Madden '12 down to just two players, Cleveland's crazy fans managed to vote their running back, Peyton Hillis, past Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers.

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick seemed to be an early favorite to win it all, and I still think he may very do just that by beating out Hillis. Either way, just getting this far is quite the accomplishment for the 240-pound bull-of-a-running back.

Hillis never rushed for more than 348 yards and six touchdowns in a given season throughout his college career at Arkansas, and was a seventh round pick (227th overall) of the Denver Broncos in 2008.
In Denver's system, Hillis ran for 397 yards and six touchdowns on 81 carries (4.9 YPC) in two seasons. Last off-season he was moved to Cleveland in the Brady Quinn trade, and made an impact on his new team right away.

Hillis ran for a touchdown in each of his first four games, which included two games of 100-plus yards. By season's end, Hillis had racked up a career-high 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 270 carries.

We all know of Vick's story, as well.

Released from home confinement on July 20, 2009, Vick returned to the league with the Philadelphia Eagles that August. With a limited role, it didn't seem like Vick would ever fully return to Pro Bowl form having been out of the league since 2006.

That was, until this past season. After an injury to starter Kevin Kolb during a week one matchup with the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, Vick took over as starter and never looked back. Before his jail time, Vick was known as an inaccurate passer who was always looking to run. But, apparently he worked on this problem while playing in jail(?) because he then proceeded to set career-highs in yards (3,018), touchdown passes (21) and completion percentage (62.6).

Of course, he still managed to wow everyone with his legs, running 676 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. Vick's Eagles were knocked off by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the opening round of the playoffs, but that does not take anything away from Vick's phenomenal season. Like I said with Ben Roethlisberger and his off-field issues...winning seems to cure all. Apparently everyone forgets how much they used to hate this guy?

Unfortunately I expect Vick will win the voting, and I say unfortunately because I would love to see Hillis win cover athlete.

The winner will be announced on April 27 on ESPN2 at 4 P.M. Stay tuned.

Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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