INDIANAPOLIS –The 2012 season has been one where the growth spurts of Colts rookies are reasons why the team is within grasp of the playoffs.
The offense has flourished with young talent and not all of the record performances have been accomplished by Andrew Luck.
One of Luck's targets, T.Y. Hilton, has put up impressive numbers in the offense, and he has made an impact on the return game, too.
The speedster from Florida International who set school and conference records with 7,498 all-purpose yards, a total that ranks fifth in NCAA FBS history, has found the Indianapolis to his liking.
Hilton has 44 receptions for 716 yards and six touchdowns, and his 75-yard scoring burst against Buffalo has helped spike his average to 11.2 on 25 punt returns. Hilton said he sensed opportunity from the outset.
"Yes, right away. I thought I probably would be the fourth receiver," said Hilton. "I thought I would have to battle Austin Collie for the third position. Right now, I'm just having fun. I'm kind of doing everything I want to do right now."
Augmenting talent is his intellect. When drafted, Hilton immediately thought of Reggie Wayne and how one of the franchise's most noteworthy players could help get him acclimated to the NFL.
"I was excited. The first thing I wanted to do was to ask him questions," said Hilton. "Reggie has really helped me out. He's done a lot to help polish my game. As long as I ask questions, I'll be alright."
Hilton has been more than alright. He has set the club rookie record with four 100-yard games, a total that also exceeds the 12 receivers drafted before he was in the third round (92nd overall).
Hilton's six touchdown receptions are two shy of the club rookie records of Bill Brooks and Marvin Harrison, and they are one shy of matching John Mackey and Collie. He is within eight receptions of moving into a fifth-place tie with Andre Rison and Marshall Faulk in club rookie totals and by getting there, he would pass Randy McMillan and Jerome Pathon.
Hilton is just 11 yards shy of moving past Mackey into fourth place, and Harrison (836) and Rison (820) are within reach. Brooks (1,131) is the club's rookie yardage leader.
Hilton, a Florida native, was around when the Colts played in two Super Bowls in Miami (2006, 2009). He remembers that, if not all the names among which he is associated.
"I don't really know those guys. I haven't really had the time to look into the background of the franchise," said Hilton. "Other than the Super Bowl champs and the other time they went, I haven't had the chance to go deeper. I will do that, though."
Wayne scored the team's first touchdown in Super Bowl XLI, and he has thrived for years. Hilton has soaked up tips from Wayne like a sponge.
"I'm reacting to his cuts. I like how he gets in and out of his breaks. I'm just trying to add that to my game. What I need work on is getting in and out of my breaks," said Hilton. "He helped me out a lot studying films and breaking down the defensive backs. I know how to leverage guys and how I can get their hands off me and just do what I do best."
Luck has seen Hilton mature, and he sees a comfortable player in the offense.
"He's just gotten more comfortable and more confident with everything, whether it's punt returning, running routes or reverses," said Luck. "Whatever it may be, you can just tell he keeps playing faster and faster and keeps making big plays. It's sort of fun to see that, and it'll be fun to play with him for many years to come."
Bruce Arians has seen rookie receivers mature in offenses to where they are valuable components in December and January. Arians notes it with Hilton, and he sees a worker like Wayne.
"I think more than anything, confidence," said Arians for Hilton's growth. "He's playing so much faster than he did earlier in the year. He's seeing things. I think the game has slowed down for him a little bit.
"He's been doing a great job practicing. He's got good practice habits because he's modeling himself after Reggie (Wayne). He's just going to continue to get better and better with that."