New Colts DE-Jerry Hughes: 'I Can't Wait to Come Up Here and Get to Work'
INDIANAPOLIS – Cameras clicked, and bulbs flashed.
Jerry Hughes, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, stood in a gray suit and pink and purple paisley tie. He held a blue Colts jersey, a No. 92 and "Hughes" stitched on the back.
He smiled widely, his dream having suddenly come true.
This was Friday evening.
More specifically, this was the first full day of Hughes' professional football life – a good enough day, good enough feeling, that the pass-rushing defensive end from Texas Christian University wasn't shy about not wanting it to end.
"I don't think it's hit me just yet," Hughes said Friday, a day after the Colts made him the No. 31 overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. "I've been telling everybody that this is a great dream right now and don't pinch me because I don't want to wake up just yet."
Hughes arrived in Indianapolis Friday afternoon with his mother and father, Pam and Jerry, as well as his sister and girlfriend.
The group met with Colts officials, and shortly after 6 p.m., Hughes was speaking to the Indianapolis media for the first time. As he did, his parents looked on. Later, Pam Hughes spoke of watching her son realize his dream.
"When all the little boys are little, they say they want to play in the NFL," Pam Hughes said. "We never realized it would turn into him being here."
Jerry Hughes spoke of seeing his son speak to the media as a first-round selection.
"It's a great feeling," Hughes said. "I'm just saying, 'Look at my boy: he made it.' It's a great feeling seeing him up there and doing all this, what he's doing. But like I was telling him, getting to the next level, which is this level – now it's time to make a name for himself."
Colts President Bill Polian and Head Coach Jim Caldwell presented Hughes to the media, then after posing for photographs, returned to conducting the draft. Wearing a large ring on his left hand from the Horned Frogs' Fiesta Bowl/Mountain West Conference Championship 2009 season, Hughes spoke of returning to college not only to get his degree, but to win the conference title.
"I wanted to get my degree," Hughes said. "I was only a couple of hours short of that, so that's something I was in pursuit of – and to help the team get a conference title. When I came in my freshman year, they had just come off that conference title in 2005. Just seeing all the guys faces, how excited they were – that's something I wanted to be a part of."
He also spoke of the excitement Thursday of waiting to learn his immediate future.
"It was a lot of excitement – sitting there with family and friends, just watching how everything was unfolding," he said.
Near 11:00 p.m., Hughes received a phone call from area code 317.
At first, he didn't know what it meant, exactly.
"I had no idea, but when I saw the Colts up on the clock, I had a general idea," he said, smiling.
Coincidentally, and pleasantly for Hughes, the team calling was one he had followed closely in recent seasons. The reason for that was simple.
Hughes, after a record-setting high school career as a running back, moved to defensive end upon his arrival at TCU. Shortly thereafter, while examining NFL defensive ends, he became a huge fan of Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who along with Robert Mathis forms perhaps the league's most-potent pass-rushing tandem.
"Whenever he was on TV Sunday nights, Sunday afternoons, I'd always tune in to see what he does out there," Hughes said. "That's kind of somebody I tried to model myself after."
Hughes, who said he rooted for the Colts during this past February's Super Bowl, said while he has yet to master the spin move that makes Freeney one of the premier pass rushers of his generation, there are fundamental similarities.
"My game is very fast, very tenacious," Hughes said. "When I get out there on the field, I just play at one speed, and that's fast. I've got to sit and learn from them. They're the best two defensive ends in the NFL, so I have a great opunity to sit with them and learn from them."
Hughes (6-feet-2, 255 pounds), a three-year starter for the Horned Frogs, registered 28.5 sacks in four seasons, finishing with 15 sacks as a junior and 11.5 as a senior this past season. A two-time consensus All-American, Hughes this past season received the Ted Hendricks Award given to the nation's top defensive end and the Lott Trophy.
He also forced eight fumbles over the last two seasons.
Upon drafting Hughes, Polian said the Colts have been searching for a third pass rusher to complement Freeney and Mathis for seven seasons.
"I'm just very excited," Hughes said. "I can't wait to come up here and get to work. . . . It's a class act and a class franchise. These guys know how to win. I have to get caught up to speed and learn how they play football. If there's one thing the Colts know how to do it's win football games.
"I can't wait to help out and do my job."