Last week, Peyton Hillis made waves with comments that led some to believe he’d turned his back on the Razorback football program. The resulting uproar among fans led Hillis to return to the airwaves and clarify himself.
No, he has nothing against the program, or other fans for that matter.
“I live, drink and breathe Razorback football. I’m a Razorback through and through. I love the University of Arkansas,” he said. “I have Razorbacks all over my truck and make sure they’re red and white. I’ve always been a Razorback fan and will continue to be a Razorback fan.”
But yes, Hillis does hold some bitterness towards the last two coaching staffs. “I was speaking my mind to where the Razorback organization – as far as the staff inside – has been going, and I haven’t liked it,” he said on the Buzz 103.7 FM’s “Out of Bounds.”
As Hillis sees it, recent coaches have departed from some of the family nature that drew him to the program in the first place. When he was a player under Houston Nutt in the mid 2000s, when “we were always taught, especially when I was there, that we’re family, and we’re in this together — ‘Once a Razorback, always a Razorback.’”
That’s the feeling Hillis got from Bret Bielema after his NFL career ended in 2014. At that point, he was starting to volunteer coach at Siloam Springs High and dropping in on the Hogs football team.
“I first started coming around when Coach Bielema was there. He would bring me around to practices and stuff. I liked Coach Bielema, great guy, he was a nice guy.”
Hillis, who lives in Springdale, said he hasn’t been able to stay connected to the program since Bielema was fired in late 2017.
First, it was the Chad Morris, which lasted all of two seasons.
From that very first season in 2018, he knew something was wrong.
“It kills me when I turn on the TV and I watch Arkansas getting destroyed by Colorado State,” he told sports radio hosts John Nabors and Joe Franklin. “That stuff just don’t need to happen. I feel like every fan that is a true fan don’t want that and doesn’t need to put up with that. We need better.”
“Last year was just pathetic in the widest sense of the word, and I only say that as a fan and a true believer in the Razorbacks.”
In another part of the interview, he said: “We’ve been still paying money to coaches who were fired 10 years ago and we haven’t gotten a coach to come in here and actually win.”
“When you talk to Alabama fans, you talk to LSU fans, you talk to Florida fans, they don’t talk just about SEC championships — they’re talking about a national championship. And I want our fans to feel and believe in that. We haven’t felt that or believed in that in a very, very long time, and it kills me.”
It burned up Hillis so bad that he wanted to get involved with the program any way he could.
So he started applying for anything and everything.
“I’ve signed up for everything position they’ve had an opening for, from quality control to defensive assistant to, heck, waterboy. [Even] recruiter, something where I could come in and help the team.”
He made a few phone calls and “even went on ZipRecruiter to sign up for the dadgum jobs,” Hillis added.
But he never got even the courtesy of a call back.
“If there’s any way I offended the university or its fans, I’m deeply apologetic…. it’s more towards the decisions of the staff.”Peyton Hillis on the Buzz 103.7
The silence has been not just from Chad Morris and his coaches, but also from Morris’ successor, Sam Pittman and his staff. “There’s a guy there I know really well and I kept asking to come and meet with [Pittman], and they just haven’t called me back.”
He added that former Hog Drew Morgan, who coaches on the high school level, has had similar experiences based on conversations he’s had with Morgan.
These comments are unusual because Pittman has enjoyed such widespread respect and goodwill in his first half year as the head Hog. Hillis recalls all the positivity that kicked off the Chad Morris era, too.
“I’ve heard good things about Sam Pittman as far as the man that he is. I have. And I heard the same thing about Coach Morris.
“I found myself to be a believer and they said Chad Morris was a great, upstanding man and Christian. But, as you can see, sometimes just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you can win a football game. And now he’s getting paid now $10 million just to leave.”
“You just didn’t really hear about him anywhere before he came to Arkansas about accomplishing anything. I just wanted Arkansas to get behind somebody that everybody’s going to be excited about, that they are accomplished, they know what they’re doing, they know what they’re talking about, and they go out there and they win football games.”
He added: “I just don’t like where we’re going right now and I just want so bad to do something to help, because I feel like I can. I have some knowledge.”
“It was painful that I didn’t even get a call back, just to say ‘Hey, we don’t have any available spots, but we really appreciate that you would want to come and join.’”
“Just some closure would’ve been good, but there’s been no contact from either coaching staff. It’s kind of like you’ve been abandoned by the staff, not by the university or the fans.”
“Where I’ve been, recent players go to their college. They’re accepted. The want them on the field for recruiting or for, you know, inspiration or, you to talk to the guys and , let them know, ‘Hey, this is what you do. This is what you don’t do. Keep your head.’ Things of that nature.”
The pain of rejection was worse during the Chad Morris era, but Hillis said it doesn’t bother him as much anymore.
“Madre Hill has reached out to me to help give me some closure on the matter and I really appreciate what he has said and what he has done. I felt a little resentment at the time — I don’t as much any more, I kinda got over it. I played at the university for four years, had the best time of my life. I got to play with the best teammates and have the greatest fans in the world. I’m trying to reminisce on the good times, but I want those times again. Not just for myself — there’s nothing that I’m looking to gain — but just to help the university out,” he said on the Buzz 103.7 FM.
“This still is a business world. It’s really nobody’s job to reach out to me and give me closure. I’m a big boy, I can take it. I just expected differently at the time… I was thinking at the time, at least they’ll get back with me and say something but nothing ever has been said or done. I’m not even looking for an explanation, really. That’s their side of it and that’s the business side of it, I guess.”
It’s important to note that this is only one side of the story. Sam Pittman hasn’t yet spoken on record about the situation.
Pittman had a lot of ground to make up when he first hit campus, and the pandemic hitting has surely complicated his ability to have in-person meetings with others.
Hillis said that while he was a Razorback sitting behind Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, “I had a chance to leave and I didn’t because I’m a Razorback. I’m loyal and committed and I feel like I’m an honorable guy. But I was always speak the truth I feel like needs to be spoke. That’s just something about me that I’ve always done.”
Make sure to listen to the whole interview here:
And here’s more from last week’s controversial interview: