Browns’ Hillis ready to rumble

Peyton Hillis has been dragging cars and all-terrain vehicles

around the streets back home in Arkansas to stay in shape during

the NFL lockout.

On Saturday, the Browns’ bulldozing back planned to pull a fire

truck across a football field.

“Yeah, I’m going to give it a try,” Hillis said Friday night.

“We’re going to have a good time doing it.”

Hillis is ready for some football

Before joining his Cleveland teammates in Texas for a weekend

camp – dubbed “Camp Colt IV” for Browns quarterback Colt McCoy –

Hillis hosted his own camp Saturday for more than 300 area kids,

some of whom will be on board the fire truck he will harness

himself to and attempt to lug for a few yards. Based on what Hillis

did last season for the Browns, the emergency vehicle doesn’t stand

a chance.

Not only did he rush for 1,177 yards and 11 TDs in 2010, the

handsome, soft-spoken Hillis became an overnight sports icon in a

city left reeling by the departure of NBA superstar LeBron James,

whose nationally televised “Decision” celebrated a one-year

anniversary on Friday with zero fanfare. Hillis has helped fill the

void left by James, now viewed as a villain in a town he once owned

like no one before him.

Hillis is the new folk hero.

With overwhelming help from the Browns’ passionate fan base this

offseason, Hillis was voted as the cover figure for Madden 12, the

wildly popular video game. He beat out Philadelphia Eagles

quarterback Michael Vick in the final, a victory that was followed

by an appearance on David Letterman and more publicity than the

Conway, Ark., native could have ever imagined.

It’s been a whirlwind, but Hillis has been able to keep things

in perspective. Nothing has gone to his head.

“It’s all pretty much been the same,” he said of the past few

months. “It might change a little bit when I get back in Cleveland

and settle down. But being in Arkansas, in the middle of nowhere,

it hasn’t changed that much. That’s the way I like it, though. I’ve

been very blessed. It’s surreal. I just have to keep doing what I’m

doing.”

Hillis has done his best to stay clear of the NFL labor

rhetoric, preferring to work out at home with his buddies, who have

helped him with his regimen of pulling cars, trucks and ATVs around

town.

“I feel like I’ve been doing what I need to be doing to make me

better at the game,” he said of his unorthodox training

methods.

On Friday night, Hillis charmed sponsors of the camp he will

host at Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School during a dinner at the

Ritz-Carlton also attended by Browns safety T.J. Ward and running

back Montario Hardesty, who missed last season with a knee injury

but who, if healthy, could give Cleveland a 1-2 combination in the

offensive backfield to rival any team.

Hillis gladly signed autographs and took photos with anyone who

asked. He even obliged a request to do Arkansas’ famous war cry and

belted out, “Woooooo. Pig! Sooie! Razorbacks.”

Asked what new Browns coach Pat Shurmur should do next season,

Hillis had a quick response.

“Run the ball,” he said, smiling.

Hillis has stayed on top of the NFL labor talks, but hasn’t let

them become distracting.

“I don’t put too much thought into it because it’s out of my

control,” he said. “I’m preparing in my own head and my whole state

of mind for the season – whenever that is. “

Hillis has attended two of the Browns’ workouts in Austin,

Texas, where McCoy played college ball and makes his off-season

home. Hillis said the get togethers, which will include defensive

players for the first time this weekend, have been productive.

“They’ve been really good, especially for the young guys to get

to meet the older guys and get in the groove of things,” he

said.

Hillis, who wasn’t expected to be Cleveland’s primary ball

carrier heading into last season, revealed he played the final

three games with broken ribs, an injury he was determined not to

slow him down.

“I just wanted to do everything I could for the city of

Cleveland last year,” he said. “People around here have been so

good to me. That’s the kind of guy I am.”