INDIANAPOLIS – The Miami pipeline has been churning out NFL players for years.
Pro Bowlers flock from the area and one attribute that typically follows many of their products is speed, plenty of it.
That's the case for Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Steelers wideout Antonio Brown.
Separated by just one year, the two played for Tyrone Hilton (T.Y.'s father) at Gwen Cherry Park in northwest Miami.
Last week, Mina Kimes of ESPN published this piece on the unique bond of Hilton and Brown, who will see each other again on Sunday night.
After years apart, the duo has reconnected to the point where Hilton has even mimicked Brown's touchdown dance.
The two were also Pro Bowl teammates last year in Arizona.
"I just remember every year he got better and better," Brown told Colts.com at the Pro Bowl.
Here are a few excerpts of Kimes' piece on the two of the game's rising stars:
"They were shifty," Tyrone says. "It was hard to bring them down, hard to catch up with them." Though they never played on the same team -- Brown was a year older and in a different weight class -- the two kids were identical players: smaller, shrewder and more gifted than their peers.
Brown's father is Eddie Brown, who Indiana fans might remember as "Touchdown Eddie Brown" for his time with the Indiana Firebirds of the Arena Football League:
After he failed to catch on with the Arizona Cardinals, Eddie joined the Albany Firebirds of the Arena Football League, scoring six touchdowns in his first game. By then, he and Adrianne had broken up. In 1996, 8-year-old Antonio and his younger brother, Desmond, went to spend a few months with their dad in Albany, where Eddie also coached high school ball. The boys loved it there; Antonio spent hours running on the Firebirds' field with his father, who would go on to score 303 touchdowns. (In 2006, he was voted the greatest player in Arena Football history.) At the end of the school year, Eddie put his sons on a plane back to Miami.
On Hilton's first memories of Indiana:
(Hilton) remembers his first time visiting Indiana, flying over the cornfields on his way to meet the Colts, pondering a life in the wintry Midwest. He had torn his quad in his final college game, and he feared his draft stock would sink. But he took comfort in the success of another undersized receiver. By 2012, Brown was flourishing in the NFL. Though Hilton hadn't spoken with him in years, he'd kept an eye on his old friend ever since he spotted him at (Central Michigan University). "I remember watching him and thinking, 'That could be me,'" Hilton says. "He made it easier."
On their first NFL meeting in the 2012 preseason:
It felt like they were kids again, Hilton says. "He said, 'Let me see what you got. You know I'm gonna put on a show for you.'" Since then, the two have stayed in touch, texting each other messages of encouragement. Hilton says he studies tape of Brown. "He's the only guy I have on my iPad," he says. "I watch him because of our relationship, and because if I had to compare myself to one receiver, I'd say it's him."
This past January, both players were selected for the Pro Bowl, and Brown, a captain of Cris Carter's team, made sure his side picked Hilton. "Two guys with the same aspirations, who love football and come from the same neighborhood -- it was special," Hilton says. When he scored in the first quarter, Brown stood next to him in the end zone, lifting his arms to form a Y next to his friend's T. It was then, Hilton says, that he came up with the idea to pay homage to Brown this fall.
After his dance in the end zone of the Patriots game, Hilton received a text: Man you put a smile in my heart.