As the 2011 NFL Draft approaches, here's a look at past Colts picks and performers. This entry: Cornerbacks.


A look at some of the Colts' top picks and performers through the years at cornerback
Kelvin Hayden, a wide receiver for three seasons of college football, moved to cornerback as a senior at Illinois. He quickly, and audibly, left his imprint.

"All you could hear," Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said, recalling a game at which the Indianapolis team scouted Hayden, "was the thumping when Kelvin hit people."

Polian and scout Dom Anile liked what they saw as well as heard.

"(Hayden) had great close on the ball, really good hands, as you might expect from a guy who used to be a receiver," Polian said recently as he reviewed some of the Colts' notable draft picks of the past.

"He was an unassuming, quiet guy. We came back and said to (then-Colts coach Tony Dungy), 'We think we've found a corner who really fills the bill.' Tony looked at the tape as we went through the draft process and we were all excited about getting him."

The Colts drafted Hayden in the second round in 2005. By 2007, he was a starter at cornerback, and he has totaled 349 tackles and nine interceptions in his career.

Ron Turner, the Colts' quarterbacks coach now, was Illinois' head coach when Hayden was there. Hayden was the team's leading receiver as a junior in 2003 and had been the nation's top offensive player at Joliet (Ill.) Junior College in 2002. In his Illini bio, he listed Colts receiver Marvin Harrison as his favorite player.

All of Hayden's offensive laurels notwithstanding, Turner recognized his toughness and coverage ability and didn't waste time switching him when the Illini needed a cornerback in 2004.

With the Colts, Hayden is perhaps most remembered for his interception and 56-yard touchdown return in the team's Super Bowl victory over Chicago following the 2006 season. It gave the Colts a 29-17 fourth-quarter lead, the final margin.

"He made that play that cinched the Super Bowl victory and many more over the course of his career," Polian said. "And he continues to have a great career. He's a tough, tough guy – physical and hard playing. He does exactly what the defense requires. He can support the run; he closes on the ball as well as anybody in football. He's a very solid guy who prepares and gives everything he's got every week. We're lucky to have him."

Like Kelvin Hayden, Marlin Jackson had size, strength and hitting ability. Also like Hayden, Jackson adeptly covered receivers.

With Hayden and Jackson manning the cornerback positions in 2007 and 2008, the Colts had exactly what Tony Dungy wanted for his cover-2 defense.

"We thought, 'OK, we've created the prototype,' ' Polian said. "We listened to Tony and put the pieces in place."

The Colts selected Jackson, from Michigan, in the first round (29th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played safety and nickel back as well as corner. Jackson, currently with the Eagles, has totaled 284 tackles and four interceptions in a career hindered by serious knee and foot injuries.

Jackson's interception for the Colts with 24 seconds remaining in the 2006 season's AFC Championship Game clinched a 38-34 victory over New England and sent his team to the Super Bowl.

Mike Prior knows defensive backs. Prior, who works now as the Colts' Youth Football Commissioner, played safety for 13 NFL seasons. Prior echoed Polian's statements, saying Jackson has all the tools.

"But I just know more about Marlin after doing (community) events with him here," Prior said. "He was a great guy, really good in the community."

It was late on draft day in 1984, the Colts' first year in Indianapolis. Then-coach Frank Kush walked from the draft room at the old elementary school the team temporarily called home to meet with reporters. Kush wanted to personally announce the team's pick in the eighth round, a cornerback named Eugene Daniel from LSU.

Kush beamed. The Colts coach called Daniel a gem in the rough. He liked the cornerback's speed and backpedal and perseverance, even though Daniel seldom started during his LSU career.

Kush proved to be a wise talent scout. Daniel wound up playing in Indianapolis for 13 seasons and intercepted 35 passes, returning three for touchdowns. He also totaled 744 tackles.

One of the biggest plays of Daniel's career was a blocked punt recovery for the winning score against Atlanta in 1986, snapping the Colts' 13-game losing streak.

"It was huge," Daniel said recently about that '86 victory and how it was the impetus for two more wins that season and a playoff appearance in 1987. "It was really a building point for us.

"In 1987, a lot of things happened and we also got Eric Dickerson (in a trade), so we had some momentum. But we also had those last three wins in 1986 that helped us."

Mike Prior, who was Daniel's teammate with the Colts, remembers his skills.

"Eugene had great quickness, cat-like," Prior said. "He knew the position. He was a little undersized, but he could hit and had a great instinct to go and get the ball."

In 1995, when the Colts went 9-7 during the regular season and surged to the AFC Championship Game as a wild-card entry, Daniel made three interceptions and returned one for a 97-yard TD.

Ray Buchanan had a swagger. He played with confidence. He loved doing interviews. He enjoyed football.

Buchanan, from Louisville, was the Colts' third-round pick in 1993. He started only five games as a rookie but made his mark with four interceptions.

He became a full-time starter in 1994 and collected 12 interceptions over his next three years in Indianapolis. He returned three for touchdowns in '94.

Buchanan, like Daniel, played a major role in the Colts' surprising run to the AFC title game in 1995. And Buchanan continued to be a favorite with the media.

"We respect each other, we like each other, and it makes it even sweeter when you think about where we've come from," he said about the 1995 season's accomplishment.

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