Evin Demirel: The Buzz with Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones


Visit Evin's Author PageAfter running in similar circles for so long, Razorback greats Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis are now on decidedly different tracks. Jones, a 2008 first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, is a free agent seeking to rejoin his old team in time for their September 13th opener against New York. “I feel like I got some gas left, and I just want to go out there and show that I can still tote that rock.”

The 29-year-old Hillis, meanwhile, played running back for the Giants last season but after being released in February has no interest in playing in the NFL again. These days he’s living a fairly bucolic life in Siloam Springs, volunteer coaching for the local high school and hunting and fishing an awful lot. While Jones resides in Dallas and is very much plugged into the sports world, Hillis doesn’t try to stay connected to the bright lights he left. 

“We don’t have cable. We don’t have anything. I don’t try to keep in touch,” he told Pat Bradley and Justin Acri, co-hosts of The Zone on The Buzz 103.7 FM.  “I’m not on any social media; I don’t have any idea of what’s going on in the world. If a bomb hit Little Rock, I wouldn’t know.”

Hillis and Jones, who starred with Darren McFadden in the Arkansas backfield in 2005-07, once more teamed up recently as keynote speakers at the Little Rock Touchdown Club. They discussed Deflategate, Darren McFadden, Terrell Owens and, of course, the state of the Hogs. Here are some choice, lightly edited excerpts from their interview on The Buzz 103.7 FM:

Peyton, On Life After Playing Football:

At this point in my life, it’s really scary because I don’t have any direction as far as what I want to do, because for 30 years … Playing football is all I’ve ever done.

Why He Doesn’t Try Hard to Stay in the Loop 

I guess with age, since you’ve experienced a lot you really don’t care about seeing too much else, you know what I mean? My wife, she loves to travel and see things and do things and that’s great. I’ll accompany her when she wants me to, but if I was single I would probably never leave my farm where I’m at, ever.

I’m just that kind of guy. That’s why it scares me at this new stage in my life because it’s not like I need to work but I got to find something to do with my time. I can’t hunt and fish all the time… 

Hillis, on Auburn unleashing a three-headed tailback monster as powerful as McFadden/Jones/Hillis:

I think they could have because, at one point [in 2003], Brandon Jacobs was there with [Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown] and then he went to Southern Illinois… If Brandon would have been there longer at Auburn I think he could have done great things too. Brandon, he had something extra to him. I had time to play with him and become friends with him.  

On the end of Brandon Jacobs’ time in New York:

Definitely towards the end of his career he just didn’t care anymore. I think there reaches a point where it just becomes too much. Other things enter your life, like a wife and children and stuff like that, and you just realize it’s not near as important as it used to be.

On the hypothetical addition of another Buzz 103.7 FM sports show host to the Hillis/Jones/McFadden trio:

What really hurts me is the two years that [D-Mac and Jones] had their biggest years. I was thinking the whole time –  I even think now, and every time I see Matt Jones I tell him: If we had had Matt one of those two years, I mean, how incredible that would have been. It would have been sick. We were running the ball 58, 59 times a game out of 63, 64 plays…

How stability at the quarterback position could have benefited the ‘06 and ‘07 teams

We had a great receiver in Marcus Monk and if we would have had somebody to throw it down the field back in them days, because we were going through quarterback problems with the Springdale guy and Casey… We never found a niche there. If we would have stuck with one of them, maybe things would have been different, but things were really difficult back then.

On Brandon Allen and the current team:

I still think the biggest concern is in our quarterback situation. I believe that Allen – and I know his dad, he’s a smart kid and he’s not going to make any mistakes – but sometimes you have to throw the ball down the field and open it up a little bit. You definitely have the running game to do that. I know you have some wideouts that can do it now. To me that’s going to be the main push, because you do have to run the ball and that’s the most important thing when it comes to offense. I’ll stick by that forever and I know that it’s changed a lot, especially in the collegiate ranks, but sometimes you’ve got to throw the ball down the field too, and that’s what they need.

Jones, on Bielema and the current Hogs team:

Man, he is doing a great job. I like the way he’s building up his team for the way he wants to play. I was just kind of reminiscing on when we were playing. We had some big guys in the front, as far as linemen, but now he has some huge guys and it’s like they all can move and do good at it. You know those running backs are having just a lot of excitement with that. It’s fun when you can run the ball and control the game. We had Peyton who was our bruiser. When you see him break about 30 or 40 yards it’s like, “Wow, let me get in there and do something here.”

Peyton, On Tom Brady and Deflategate

It was a mucky game, really wet. I don’t know about you, but throwing the ball when it’s wet anyway, deflated or inflated, whatever, that’s pretty tough. If you’re trying to throw a deflated ball in general, that’s harder to throw, but they [Patriots] beat them [Colts] by 60 points. I don’t know who really put it out there that he did that, whatever.

If it had been a close ballgame and stuff like that happened, “Okay let’s talk about it,” but the Colts are not even in their division. What’s the big deal? I think the NFL, at a certain point, always needs a story and this is one of them. You’re always trying to knock the guy highest on the totem pole down a little bit.

Co-host Pat Bradley, Boston Native: Amen, amen. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Get out of his way! Get out of his way! He’s preachin’!

Peyton, on the NFL Grind and How to Make it Fun Again

It’s mostly work. Honestly, it takes the fun out of it when you are competing for a job. You know what I mean? It’s hard to make it fun, but I’m not going to lie – [to Felix] I was not going to bring this up until I found out you were coming. I saw you on Hard Knocks your rookie year and Terrell Owens just kept on getting all over you, and I was like, “No, that’s fun. That’s fun to watch.”

Because you know how Felix is: it doesn’t matter if he rushes for 100 yards or he rushes for -5. He’s always going to have that smile on his face and that’s what you’ve got to commend about Felix. He is always in an up-mood. That’s somebody you want to be around all the time.

Jones, On His Optimism For Being Signed by an NFL Team as a Free Agent 

I haven’t had any concussion issues but my body’s been beat up a few times. But I’m feeling good – I had a year to rest up and my body is healed up, so I’m ready to go.

On trying to make the Cowboys 

I actually went to the veteran combine this year. I tried that out just to let the team know I was still interested in playing. I had a workout with the Cowboys and I thought it went pretty good, but the opportunity of having space for me there at that time, that was the issue. I’m still working out, still trying to see what’s going to happen in the next couple weeks and just be prepared if anything does. 

Hillis, on Jones potentially teaming up with D-Mac as a Cowboys running back 

You know what, I’ll say it again, and I told y’all this 2 months ago: If Darren McFadden stays out there, you better look out, because that’s a great offensive line they’ve got down there. I know Felix wants to go back over there, think about it: Darren and Felix back in the same backfield…

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