A PERFECT MATCH

Rookie quarterback Tim Hiller, who signed as a free agent from Western Michigan, said his hope in the coming weeks and months is to learn as much as possible from Peyton Manning and Frank Reich.

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Colts Rookie Quarterback Tim Hiller Looking Forward to Learning from Manning, Reich

INDIANAPOLIS – Tim Hiller knows the coming weeks and months will be challenging. Very, very challenging.

Hiller, a quarterback from Western Michigan University, in the coming weeks and months will compete for a position with the Colts, and it's not the presence of a four-time Most Valuable Player at his position he sees as his biggest challenge. Nor is it the other quarterbacks on the roster.

Hiller said the biggest challenge isn't anyone else.

Nor is it physical.

The biggest challenge, he said, may be how he approaches things mentally.

"You just can't lose your confidence," said Hiller, a collegiate free-agent signee by the Colts shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft.

"The first few days you're overwhelmed mentally a little bit. A lot of things are thrown at you very quickly. If you lose your confidence, then you've lost it all. At some point in time, you may make a mistake, but the imant thing is to stay positive. The next play is the most important play."

Hiller (6-feet-4, 229 pounds), projected by many analysts before the draft as a potential late-round selection, took that approach in college, and the result was one of the most productive passing careers in the nation the last four seasons.

Hiller, those who knew him in college will tell you, wasn't just a productive college player.

He also was one preparing for the NFL.

"Tim Hiller has a tremendous passion to succeed in every endeavor he faces," Western Michigan Head Coach Bill Cubit told the school's public relations department recently. "The system he has been in the last five years has many concepts that are being used in the NFL. He had the responsibility of the run and the checks involved with the fronts presented to him, the protection checks and the ID of the linebackers in protection for the line and the running backs.

"He is also responsible for taking advantage of the mismatches that would occur by the numerous personnel groups that were being used."

Hiller, who started as a freshman, started 42 of 44 games in four seasons, completing 1,013 of 1,607 passes for 11,329 yards and 99 touchdowns with 41 interceptions. As a senior this past season, he completed 309 of 514 passes for 3,249 yards and 23 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

Such success has helped Hiller's confidence as he moves to a higher level football – and he said that's true whatever happened on draft weekend.

"Obviously, when you don't get drafted there's a little disappointment," Hiller said. "You can only let that last for a couple of minutes and move on, make the most of what you're dealt. I'm just trying to do the best I can with what I've got and where I am. That's here.

"I'm excited for this opportunity and I'm grateful for this opportunity that Coach (Jim) Caldwell and (Colts President Bill) Polian and the staff have given me. I'm very grateful."

As of rookie camp, Hiller hadn't met Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is entering his 13th season as an NFL starter and last season won his record fourth Associated Press NFL MVP Award. But Hiller said Manning has written him a note and he planned to speak with him soon.

"I want to be his shadow as much as he'll allow me to," Hiller said.

Hiller, who played collegiately in the spread offense that has become more common in college football recent seasons, likely will go through an adjustment period while adapting to professional football. But he also said he believes his skills will adapt well to the Colts' scheme.

"Offensively, it's probably the best fit of anyone I had (an opportunity to sign with)," Hiller said. "And what better opportunity? Regardless of whether the situation is, what better guy to learn from than Peyton Manning and a quarterback coach like (Colts quarterbacks coach) Frank Reich, who played in the league for so many years? He's a veteran guy.

"They do it the best here, so if you want to be the best, I figured why not join them and take advantage of this great opportunity."

Cubit also said Western Michigan's style was similar enough to an NFL style to ease the transition.

"He will be pro ready because of being under center for most of the time during his collegiate career, which will help in reducing the learning curve for how they will want his drops," Cubit said. "He has outstanding football intelligence and with his work ethic will be a valuable asset for the Colts. It is a perfect match."

And that, Hiller said, is how he sees his situation – as an opportunity to learn and to have a chance to make an NFL roster. Ideally, he said that would be with the Colts, but he said the chance to learn will be invaluable whatever happens.

"My goal is to make this team, and I want to pursue that as hard as possible," he said. "At the end of the day, this is a first-class organization. This is an opportunity to learn from the best in the game offensively. I'm trying to make myself into the best player possible."

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