The people have spoken: Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis will grace the cover of "Madden NFL 12." And, surprisingly, the voting wasn't even close.
The announcement came Wednesday after tournament-style, head-to-head voting by fans, 66 percent of whom picked Hillis over Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for the video-game cover. According to ESPN.com, which ran the contest for the EA Sports game, 1,092,352 ballots were cast in the final round.
Hillis told ESPN that he was "excited" about the victory and appreciated the support of Browns fans.
"I just want to tell them thanks and I'm going to play my best for them," he said.
Vick, who appeared on the cover of "Madden NFL 2004," congratulated Hillis on the victory and said, "I made it this far, and that's a plus for me."
Hillis went from a 10th seed in the 32-player contest to become the 15th Madden cover model. Along the way, he also knocked off Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl XLV MVP, by a decisive 61 percent-to-39 percent margin.
The Browns acquired Hillis, a 2011 sixth-round draft pick and a conditional 2012 selection last March when they shipped former first-round pick Brady Quinn to the Denver Broncos. Hillis then broke out to become one of the NFL's surprise stars of 2010, rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with catching 61 passes for 477 yards and two more scores.
Some people wondered if Hillis would succumb to the "Madden Curse" that has seemed to hit previous cover models. Vick sustained a broken leg in 2003 and missed 11 games during the season in which he was on the game's cover.
Hillis isn't worried, though.
"For people to believe in this so-called curse, I can't wait to prove people wrong," Hillis said in an ESPN.com chat before the winner was announced. "From what I believe and where I am in my spiritual life, it would be good to prove them wrong in that sense."