INDIANAPOLIS – Emotions on draft days run high and a positive one manifested itself in the third round this year when General Manager Ryan Grigson jumped up a few spots with a trade to land
Grigson termed the wide receiver/kick returner as “electric,” and Hilton has validated the move with a productive start after 10 games.
Hilton holds a 15.2 average on 30 receptions and while he is fourth on the club in receptions, he tops the squad with four touchdowns and three 100-yard outings.
The last three games against Miami, Jacksonville and New England have provided great moments.
Hilton had 102 yards on six receptions against the Dolphins, and his 36-yard scoring reception was a leaping snare involving two defenders that gave the Colts a 20-17 third-quarter lead in an eventual 23-20 win.
At Jacksonville, he rushed for 19 and 11 yards on first-down reverses, with the first one leading to an early score in 17-point opening burst in a decisive win.
Last week at New England, Hilton scored on 14- and 43-yard receptions. He became sixth Colts rookie to have two touchdown receptions in a game, one behind the club record. Hilton also equaled a club record that was set in 1989 when his 100 yards on six receptions marked the third game his yardage hit triple digits.
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians saw Hilton’s talents early.
“I think, really, it was back in the spring, he flew by a couple guys in practice and it was like, ‘This guy’s got some speed,’ ” said Arians.
Hilton aggravated a previous groin injury during the spring and started taking full shape again in preseason. The electric nature was evident again.
“Early preseason games, I saw the speed actually show up. Then he just got better and better from there,” said Arians. “I’m very pleased with him as a wide receiver. I think we’re all surprised that he’s got three 100-yard games, but he can run fast and he gets behind people. He can take a short one and take it to the house.”
While Hilton is a component in the return game (15 punt returns, 8.1 average; seven kickoff returns, 16.9 average), he is growing in the offense.
“I’m very comfortable. I learned my role in the offense. Right now, it’s doing big things for me. Once I catch the ball, I’m able to do the right thing,” said Hilton. “Learning takes times. For me, spending more time with Reggie (Wayne) is helping me out a lot. It’s showing. It’s reflected in my game, and I’m just having fun.”
Hilton was like other Colts rookies in being thrust directly into action by the coaching staff. The accelerated learning pace in the off-season and training camp was hurled at each player, and Hilton was relegated to mental reps as his injury healed.
“Oh, yeah, because they’re also trying to learn the offense,” said Hilton. “That 12-year vet (Wayne), he’s helping out more than anything.”
Hilton was pleased on draft day with the confidence Indianapolis showed in him. Now, he feels accountable to produce.
“I hold myself to high standards. It’s expected from me,” said Hilton. “It’s why they traded up for me in the third round. Right now, I’m just having fun and doing what they need me to do.
Whenever the ball comes my way, I have to make sure to catch it, protect it and run after the catch.”
Hilton was the 13th receiver taken in the draft. Four went in the first round and other than Hilton, the only one to produce one 100-yard game is Jacksonville’s Justin Blackmon. Blackmon was taken fifth overall. Hilton was the 92nd choice.
The player who set the club mark with three 100-yard games as a rookie was Andre Rison, taken 22nd overall in 1989.
Hilton is aware of who Rison is, but he just wants more from himself.
“Hopefully, there is more to come. My role in the offense is doing me (fine), and I’m just having fun,” said Hilton. “That’s what I’m going to do.”