GAINING CONFIDENCE

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden in four seasons has developed into one of the Colts' core defensive players. After missing six games last season, Hayden said his goal this season is to achieve the goal he set before last season: to play in his first Pro Bowl.

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Colts Veteran CB Hayden Sets Goals High Entering 2009 Season

INDIANAPOLIS – Kelvin Hayden never had a doubt.

Because never before in Hayden's four NFL seasons had he felt quite like this. This was this time last year, and entering the 2009 season, Hayden the time felt right and he figured everything was in place for success.

He was experienced. He had put in the work. He had confidence.

"My goal was to make the Pro Bowl," Hayden said during the Colts' recent offseason conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

Hayden, a second-round selection by the Colts in the 2005 NFL Draft, didn't quite make that goal, and one reason was injuries. He missed six games at midseason with multiple injuries, but Hayden said the experience didn't change the goal as much as it set it back a year.

"That's still my goal," he said.

Hayden, entering his third season as a starter, said that's a realistic goal, and others around the Colts agree.

"Every time you look at him you see he's getting better and better and better," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "He had quite a year last year, and I think he'll continue to improve."

Hayden, who missed Games 5-10 last season, played sparingly in 2005 and 2006, then moved into the starting lineup in 2007. He started 16 games that season with 12 passes defensed and three interceptions, then matched those totals last season despite missing nearly half the season.

Hayden also returned an interception for a touchdown in a late-season victory over Cincinnati.

He re-signed with the Colts shortly before free agency began in February, a move Caldwell said was imant for several reasons. Not only has Hayden been one of the franchise's core defensive players the past two seasons, he is young despite entering his fifth professional season, and Caldwell said he likely will improve significantly.

"He's 26 years old, so he's at that prime age, obviously," Caldwell said of Hayden. "He's just kind of hitting his stride. He's a guy who really is progressing and growing day by day. In college, he played wide receiver, so we see him just kind of continuing to get better.

"He's a guy who just seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He has that knack."

Hayden, for his part, said his goal is to see what that knack will bring if he can remain healthy for an entire season.

"I feel like, 'Hey, I want to put together the whole 16 and see what happens," Hayden said. "You always have goals going into the season. I'm not one of those guys who writes down, 'I want a certain amount of interceptions or a certain amount of tackles.' I just want to be able to prepare myself and be able to work hard and be on the details and all of that stuff will fall into place.

"I felt like I was going to have one of those years last year. Coming into the year, I just felt so confident. I just had this sort of confidence about me. I looked at it like my senior year in college: Year Four. They say your senior year is supposed to be your best year. I always looked at it like, 'My fourth year . . . my contract is up . . you don't know what's going to happen. You really don't.' I looked at like I was going to give it all I got and the confidence level was there.

"I felt I prepared myself week in and week out to make plays, and to be effective."

And while Hayden said he did that while he played, he said if he can do it for an entire season his effectiveness can increase even more – and maybe he'll achieve that goal.

"When I'm done, I want to look back on my career and have done everything there is to do – win a Super Bowl, make the Pro Bowl, things like that," Hayden said. "That's one goal I want to do. I'm not a stat guy, but I do want to make a nice amount of interceptions and a nice amount of pass breakups. I want to be one of the elites. I want to continue to work hard and see what happens."

And if healthy, is he indeed a Pro Bowl cornerback?

"I think so," he said. "If I'm healthy, I'm capable of making the plays that Pro Bowl players do. That's a certain kind of confidence you definitely have to have playing the cornerback position. You have to be confident at all points, because it seems you're out there on your own. You're by yourself. You're mano-a-mano.

"I want to continue to keep that confidence and continue to get better and work hard it."

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