INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have selected their leaders for the 2020 season.
The Colts today announced their team captains for the upcoming season, which opens up Sunday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Those selected were wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and quarterback Philip Rivers for the offense, defensive end Justin Houston and linebacker Darius Leonard for the defense and linebacker Zaire Franklin for special teams.
Here's a little more on those who have been selected to wear that dignified "C" patch on their jersey this year:
» Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton: Hilton, 30, is entering his ninth NFL season in 2020, all with the Colts, and has been selected as a team captain for a second straight year. The Florida International product has been one of the leagues top receivers since being selected in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, ranking eighth in the NFL in receptions (552), fifth in receiving yards (8,598), tied for 14th in receiving touchdowns (45) and 11th in receiving yards per game (72.9) over that span. While he remains a focal point of the Colts' offense, Hilton has also taken on a much larger leadership role in recent years, taking younger receivers under his wing just like Reggie Wayne did for him, and Marvin Harrison did for Reggie Wayne before that. "He's been a dominant receiver in the league for a while now, so being able to go out there, ask him questions, him demonstrating how to release or how he looks at and his perspective of a play is pretty cool," rookie receiver Dezmon Patmon said of Hilton. "It's always good, being a rookie, me, Pit (Michael Pittman Jr.), DeMike (DeMichael Harris) having that vet out there, that presence to go out there and have that knowledge with T.Y. and stuff like that."
» Quarterback Philip Rivers: After spending the first 16 years of his illustrious career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers, 38, has already made a major impact now as he heads into his first season leading the Colts' offense. While his familiarity with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni's system from their time together with the Chargers was a major selling point to bringing Rivers on board, his leadership abilities and the way he embraces his teammates were also too good to pass up when he became available as a free agent back in March. "To have a guy like Philip out there, I think he feels comfortable and I think what makes him feel comfortable is his teammates," Reich said. "He knows he's got great teammates. We're going to use that to our advantage and I just think that is going to continue to grow. His leadership is really going to be a big part of what we'll do this year."
» Defensive end Justin Houston: Houston, 31, enters his second season with the Colts after putting together one of the best seasons of his career in 2019. The four-time Pro Bowler played in all 16 games and logged 44 tackles (13 for a loss) with 11 sacks (one forcing a safety), two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 18 quarterback hits; he earned double-digit sacks for the first time in five seasons and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. Houston has been noted for his lead-by-example approach during his time in Indy, but he also hasn't been shy about speaking up when necessary, and the veteran certainly has the attention of his younger teammates. "Just seeing how much he works," Leonard said when asked what he's learned from Houston. "I think this is his 10th year, and how much he takes care of his body is unreal. Then when you get on the field, how smart he is. Every rep that he takes, every pass-rush rep, he's almost at the quarterback day in and day out. Me, being sometimes a pass rusher, just picking his brain, 'Hey man, what can I do here? What would you do if you're going against a guy like this?' Just picking his brain and just learning a whole lot from him. He is one great leader. Hopefully I can learn more from him."
» Linebacker Darius Leonard: At just 25 years old, Leonard has already established himself as one of the best defensive playmakers in the league. He followed up his sensational rookie season in 2018 with another stat-sheet-stuffing effort in 2019; despite missing three games from Weeks 3-5, Leonard finished the 2019 season with 121 total tackles (seven for a loss) to go along with 5.0 sacks, six quarterback hits, five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles. It was just the ninth time since at least 1982 that a player has accumulated at least five sacks and five interceptions in a single season, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Since 2018, Leonard, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection this year, is third in the NFL in total tackles (284) and 15th in interceptions (7). He's one of just three players in the NFL since at least 1982 to accumulate at least 200 tackles and 10 sacks in their first two seasons, joining former Colt Duane Bickett and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. A defensive captain for a second straight season, Leonard continues to be a key figure for the Colts on and off the field. "He's been a consistent playmaker and his leadership has continued to grow," Reich said of Leonard. "I'm just excited about him continuing to do that, making plays on the ball and being the consistent player that he is. I mean this guy has been everything that you want. The thing I love most about Darius is the way he practices, how much energy he brings to practice – I think it's contagious. I think he's been a good leader in that regard."
» Linebacker Zaire Franklin: Franklin, 24, enters his third season with the Colts in 2020, and has been a leader both on several special teams units and as a key piece of defensive depth since being selected out of Syracuse in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He's played in all 32 games with two starts in his first two seasons, and has compiled 25 total tackles and one pass defensed on defense, while also racking up 10 special teams tackles. Franklin, a Colts team captain for the first time in his career, has a track record of leadership; he was Syracuse's first sophomore team captain since the 1940s, and the first player to be a three-time Orange captain since 1896. "Zaire is a very smart, instinctive player (and) has a knack for the ball," Reich said. "He is in complete control, understands the schemes, quick at identifying what the offense is doing and is in great shape. He's a tough physical player."