INDIANAPOLIS – Two days of the NFL Draft have yielded four players for Indianapolis, and the results are seen on one side of the ball.
With their last pick in the third round, the Colts tabbed wide receiver T.Y. Hilton of Florida International. Indianapolis traded up to make the pick, swapping into the 92nd slot in exchange for its fourth-round pick (97th) and a fifth-round choice in 2013.
Hilton’s talents prompted General Manager Ryan Grigson to make his first draft-day trade with Indianapolis.
“This is fun. When you get a great player like that, that is electric like that, it is fun,” said Grigson. “Sometimes you’ve got to go up and grab those guys. He is a little bit undersized and the history is that those types of guys with his size (5-9, 183), they may be there in (round) four, but it’s not a certainty. I just felt like, now that I’ve got some feedback from other people in the league knowing who was going to take him, I feel great about getting him. Really, I am ecstatic. It was good timing. … (His speed is) 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash). He plays it, too.”
Asked if Hilton could run away from defenders, Grigson pounced.
“Yep, I would have never went up into three (third round) if he didn’t,” said Grigson. “(He is a) dual returner. Just looking at his stats now, as a receiver as a true freshman he had 1,000 yards. He really can fit us in the slot with a lot of things Bruce (Arians) does. We’ve had this guy targeted for a long time. Our special teams coaches, coach (Marwan) Maalouf and (Brant) Boyer, loved him. It was evident, we all did. You put the tape of this guy and you see it pretty quick.
“You talked about whether he ran away from people at that level? He took it to the house against Alabama. He took it to the house against major competition they faced. There was another major Division I team, too, that he took one to the house on. He stepped up no matter where he has been. We had him in here, and he is a really good kid, hard-working and he’s been productive. We’re expecting big things out of him, and he knows that.”
Hilton was a four-year player at Florida International who started 37 of 50 games, never playing in fewer than 12 in a season. He had 229 receptions for 3,531 yards and 24 touchdowns. The fleet performer demonstrated his talents in the return game. Hilton had 105 kickoff returns for a 27.2 average and four touchdowns, and he averaged 12.5 yards on 49 career punt returns, taking two back for touchdowns. Additionally, he had 69 rushes for 498 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I had a sense when I saw my name go up there and the offensive coordinator (Bruce Arians) called and he liked the way I talk, the playmaker ability,” said Hilton. “I was talking to him and wide receivers coach (Charlie Williams) and he just flat out loved me from day one. We sat down and broke down my film and the rest is history.
“I’m very fast and that helps me a lot. I’m quick in and out of my breaks. Teams have got to be ready for me because I’m a blazer. … I’m going to change games from kick return to punt return and also as a receiver, I could take a five-yard route into a 60, 70, 80-yard touchdown. Me and (Andrew) Luck are going to do just fine.”
Hilton upped his receptions each season (41, 2008; 57, 2009; 59, 2010; 72, 2011), and he twice had 1,000 seasons (1,013, 2008; 1,038, 2011). He was the school’s leading receiver in all four career seasons. He had 23.4, 28.8, 28.7 and 30.4 kickoff return averages in his chronological seasons, returning one for a score in 2008 and 2009 and two the following year. Hilton’s top punt return season was his final year with eight for a 23.3 average, and he had a 97-yard scoring return against Florida Atlantic. It was the second-longest effort in Sun Belt Conference history.
Hilton ended his career with 7,498 all-purpose yards, with seasonal averages of 180.25 (2008), 112.50 (2009), 160.69 (2010) and 149.96 (2011). The total ranks fifth in NCAA FBS history. His 37 total touchdowns are a school career record, and his 224 points rank second in school history.
While having the chance to help define the club’s future, Hilton started noticing the Colts a few years ago.
“I’ve been watching them since the year they went to the Super Bowl with Peyton (Manning) and Marvin (Harrison),” said Hilton. “I always watched them and liked them.”
Kevin Loughery contributed to this story.