Brian Daboll hasn’t called his first play.
Regardless, the Chiefs’ new running back and offensive coordinator are tied together in trying to better the team’s offensive production next season.
Hillis knows Daboll well. Their one year together in Cleveland saw Hillis churn out the most productive season of his NFL career and his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign. He reached folk hero status not only with Browns fans, but with football fans across the country, winning a nationwide vote to be the cover athlete of Madden Football following the 2010 season.
“He believed in me and believed what I could do,” Hillis remembered of his time spent with Daboll. “What he does works. I’m very excited about the opportunity to be a Chief.”
Daboll’s presence in Kansas City played a huge role in landing Hillis as an unrestricted free agent from Cleveland. Hillis had been one of the Chiefs’ top free agent targets after
The Chiefs boasted committee of runners behind Charles, each with their own specialty, but lacked a runner who could command the rushing load game-in and game-out.
In addition, 2011 team rushing leader Jackie Battle is testing the market as an unrestricted free agent. Thomas Jones is an unrestricted free agent as well and fullback Le’Ron McClain signed a three-year deal with San Diego Wednesday night.
Kansas City was expecting significant turnover in the backfield heading into 2012, making Hillis’ addition an in-house priority.
With Daboll, Hillis excelled moving from fullback to tailback when injuries sidelined Jerome Harrison and James Davis. It was the second time of his career he’d successfully moved from fullback to feature back, doing so as a rookie with Denver in 2008 as well.
“I think that Coach Daboll thought about me more than just a fullback,” Hillis remembered.
Hillis has taken advantage of the opportunities he’s received as a feature back throughout his career. He’s notched 100 or more rushing yards in 70% (7/10) of the games he’s received at least 20 rushing attempts.
“I’m excited about being here,” Hillis said. “With Jamaal Charles and
Hillis also turned in his best receiving season under Daboll in 2010, catching a career-high 61 passes for 477 yards. His versatility as a blocker, rusher and receiver gives Daboll plenty of personnel options when installing the Chiefs offense this spring and summer.
Signed to a one-year contract, Hillis understands the need to show he can excel under Daboll once more.
“A lot of people want me to show that I can do my stuff again,” Hillis said. “If that’s the case, I’m more than happy to do it.”
After battling injuries and illness throughout the 2011 season, Hillis passed his physical with the Chiefs and claims to have “never been healthier.” He missed games last season because of strep throat and an ailing hamstring, but is expected to participate fully in the team’s off-season program.
"We are happy that Peyton decided to join us," Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel said. "Peyton is a big, strong, physical back with a lot of talent and he should fit into our system well. We are looking forward to working with him and adding him into our offense."
Hillis called recent rumors claiming he considered retirement last season to join the CIA “horrendous.”