INDIANAPOLIS --T.Y. McGill might be sporting a new uniform number for the Colts this season, but don't expect anything else to change about the second-year defensive tackle.
McGill — who donned No. 67 in 2015 but has since switched to No. 99 — knows exactly how important it is to keep his nose to the grindstone as he participates in the first full NFL offseason of his young career.
"I just come in every day, just work hard, and just give 100-percent effort everything I do," McGill told the Colts' Bob Lamey last week. "And then, once my time or opportunity come, I just seize it."
McGill certainly seized his opportunity with added playing time down the stretch of the 2015 season for the Colts' defense.
An undrafted college free agent out of North Carolina State, it took a while for McGill to catch on with his first NFL team, signing with the Seattle Seahawks last May. But once the Seahawks waived McGill at the start of the regular season, the Colts and general manager Ryan Grigson were quick to scoop him up, signing him the next day.
"Here's a guy that wasn't even under contract in minicamp that fell through the cracks that Seattle ended up signing for camp, and he just tore it up in the preseason and played with his hair on fire," Grigson told Lamey of McGill in December. "Love his style of play."
Indeed, McGill did earn rave reviews for his preseason play — against starters, no less — with the Seahawks last season. But with no room on Seattle's roster for one more defensive lineman, and with some interior D-line depth needed in Indianapolis, the Colts didn't let the Seahawks sneak McGill onto their practice squad.
That's not to say McGill was on a fast track to immediate playing time with the Colts, however. He would be inactive for four of the first five games in 2015 as he learned behind some more established veterans and prized draft picks.
But after the Bye Week, McGill wouldn't watch another game from home again. He was active for the team's final 11 games, making plays here and there and taking in every experience, good and bad, like a sponge.
Then, in November, third-round pick Henry Anderson was placed on injured reserve after suffering a major knee injury in the Colts' matchup against the Denver Broncos. McGill, in turn, was given an increase in snaps at defensive tackle — and he responded.
His most notable performance down the stretch came Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins, when he came in on a stunt and sacked quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the end zone for a safety for his first-career sack. He'd add another sack later in the game.
Just about every leader on the team — on and off the field — was thrilled to see McGill's hard work pay off in Miami, which helped the Colts earn a much-needed 18-12 victory. Perhaps those most thrilled: Grigson and Indy pass rush legend Robert Mathis, who belted McGill with some "welcome to the NFL" smacks in the end zone after his big play.
"You're happy for a guy like that, that is rewarded like that," Grigson said. "I rewound that play like three times because we were coming off three losses and it was great to get that win. And to see that kind of exuberance in the end zone with a college free agent, or rookie, that was a waiver claim at the cutdown, and here we have a Hall of Famer that's just basically just accosting him in the end zone — that's what this team's all about, and it was great to see."
McGill's strong finish continued Week 17 against the Tennessee Titans, when he earned his third and final sack of the season.
So while the Colts return some depth on the defensive line in 2016, McGill will continue to keep his head down and work hard. New number or not, he knows he hasn't earned anything just yet.
"I feel like everybody's definitely ready to get back on the field, but we only can take it one day at a time — just to get back into the swing of things," McGill said of offseason workouts, "and once that time comes to be on the field, you just gotta be ready for it."