INDIANAPOLIS --- Last season, wide receiver Donte Moncrief was the youngest player on the Colts roster, just 20-years-old when he was drafted and part of the youngest draft class in NFL history when a record 91 underclassmen declared.
Moncrief couldn't even pop the cork off the champagne bottle when he heard his name called. He wasn't old enough.
But since arriving in Indianapolis, he's flourished and this year is proving the sophomore slump doesn't apply to him. He's still young (2015 1st round WR Phillip Dorsett is actually 7 months older than him), but his production can't be denied.
Through 7 games, Moncrief has 34 receptions, 381 yards, and 5 touchdowns, already two more receptions and two more touchdowns than he had his rookie season. 80% of those yards have come with Andrew Luck at quarterback, and he's scored every game this season that his starting quarterback has played.
"Just getting the confidence, getting my swagger," said Moncrief Thursday, when asked what's been the difference in his growth in his second professional season. "Knowing the playbook, knowing how to study film, and knowing the weakness of defenders."
Moncrief came in on a mission, starting in OTAs. On the first day of the offseason program, he said T.Y. Hilton told him it was time to get to work. He wasn't a rookie anymore.
"Since OTAs and training camp, attacking it everyday like a game," said Moncrief. "I know from T.Y. and Andre (Johnson), watching those guys and adding their strong points to my game to make my game stronger. Just being able to do that daily...and getting my confidence from the quarterbacks made me better."
Moncrief said he's evolved as a receiver by better utilizing his speed (4.40 40-yard dash at 2014 NFL Combine) and size (6'2", 222 pounds). That has translated to coming back to the ball more effectively, yards after catch, and improved route running, an area he worked on extensively in his first NFL offseason.
Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton may have hinted at Moncrief's emergence during this past preseason, saying for as fast as Moncrief is in a simple 40-yard dash, he's the kind of receiver whose speed translates even better in full pads during a game.
"I feel like I am faster in game speed," said Moncrief, when asked about Hamilton's preseason remarks. "Because however fast you are, I'm going to be fast enough to beat you."
Did we mention Moncrief has more confidence in 2015? But being one of the youngest players in the draft coming out of Ole Miss made two areas in particular a challenge upon arriving in Indianapolis.
"I'd say studying film. Actually being patient," said Moncrief. "You gotta come in with an open mind that there's a lot of things you can fix with your game. That's what I did. I had Reggie (Wayne) here. Now, I got Andre and T.Y., so just picking their brains. It made it easier for me."
What is Moncrief's relationship like with Hilton?
"Me and T.Y. talk all the time. Here, off-the-field, text a lot. He's like a brother to me. I look up to him," said Moncrief. "We talk about everything. I ask him the weakness of corners. He asks me the same thing. It's just the small things. We feed off each other."
#FeedMoncrief is a Twitter hashtag that started when Moncrief was at Ole Miss. The fans wanted the Rebel quarterbacks to get him the ball. It's continued in Indianapolis, with the help of the franchise's all-time leader in wins and games played, Reggie Wayne.
"(Wayne) used to tell me the things I needed to work on. He used to pick me up, let me know, 'You're going to make mistakes in this league. You gotta feed off that and do better next time,'" said Moncrief. "He used to always keep my head on right and be the big brother in the room."
Moncrief said it was a wow moment the first time he was in the same meeting room with Reggie Wayne. Now, his eight career touchdowns are already four more than Wayne had in his first two NFL seasons, with nine game still to go in 2015.
His offensive coordinator said last year the Colts drafted him to score touchdowns. Moncrief is doing that and more in his second NFL season, emerging as a big weapon opposite T.Y. Hilton for years to come.