Colts Fill Long-Standing Need with Selection of TCU DE-Jerry Hughes
INDIANAPOLIS – The wait was long, tense and uncertain.
But in the end, once the Colts had selected Texas Christian University defensive end/pass rusher Jerry Hughes with the No. 31 overall selection of the 2010 NFL Draft late Thursday evening, Colts President Bill Polian said the wait was more than worth it for the best of reasons.
One, Hughes was the best player available. Two, he filled a need.
And mostly, Polian said the selection of Hughes meant the end of a process that has been ongoing for as long as Polian said he cares to remember.
Polian said the Colts have been seeking a third pass-rusher for the better part of a decade.
And in Hughes, he said, they may have found it.
"The third rusher has been a priority of ours seemingly forever," Polian said of Hughes, a two-time consensus All-America selection.
Hughes (6-feet-1, 255 pounds), a three-year starter for the Horned Frogs, registered 28.5 sacks in four seasons, finishing with 15 sacks as a junior and 11.5 as a senior this past season. A two-time consensus All-American, Hughes this past season received the Ted Hendricks Award given to the nation's top defensive end and the Lott Trophy.
He also forced eight fumbles over the last two seasons.
"I'm going to come up there, get acquainted with the system, fill out the position and go out there and do what I do best on the field, which is rushing the passer," Hughes said.
Polian, who said the Colts have been searching for a third pass rusher to complement Pro Bowl ends/pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis for seven seasons, said the Colts targeted Hughes early in the evaluation process.
And as the first round continued Thursday, Polian said that caused some nervous moments.
"It was a long and arduous first round," Polian said. "There weren't many names left on the board in the first round."
Polian said the Colts received offers to trade out of the selection, but preferred to select Hughes if he was available.
"We're thrilled to have Jerry," Polian said. "We've been searching for the elusive third rusher for a long time, and now we feel like he can fill that bill. . . . We've said seemingly forever that the third rusher who can substitute for Dwight and Robert is something we had not had. When Dwight and Robert were 100 percent healthy, the results spoke for themselves. When they've not been 100 percent healthy, the results have not been what we wanted. That's the first priority. . . .
"We have said seemingly for the last seven years, 'We need a third rusher. We need a third rusher.' We need a guy who when one of the other two fellows is out of the lineup or not 100 percent can step in and perform at a similar level. We haven't had that guy because they're so hard to find."
Polian, who said Hughes runs about the same speed as Mathis, said Hughes' versatility also was key to the selection. Polian said Hughes should play immediately, and also could make an impact on special teams.
"He can put his hand down," Polian said. "He can stand up in the joker role. He's a pure pass rusher. That's what he does. That sack statistics speak for themselves."
Said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, "He gives us an opunity to get up the field on the outside, but he can also do some of the things we've done with three-down personnel and a guy who roams around for us a little bit. He can play that position as well.
"We think he's going to be able to give us some power along with that rush. He has all the moves in his package. We're certainly pleased to have him."
While Polian said Hughes helps address depth at a position at which the Colts released veteran Raheem Brock earlier this off-season, he added that Hughes likely will not move inside and play tackle as Brock did.
Polian and Caldwell each spoke with Hughes informing him of the selection.
"I was excited," Hughes said. "To be picked in the first round and to be picked in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts – a tremendous organization – I was in shock.
"I was excited and overwhelmed with joy."
Hughes said he has watched Freeney and Mathis extensively in recent seasons.
"Those guys right there are the epitome of what defensive ends and pass rushers are," he said. "You have Freeney and Mathis coming off the end, bringing that speed, bringing that force, bringing those moves – those are guys where you can sit back and become a student of the game."
While Polian said the Colts long have had interest in Hughes – since early this past season, Polian said – Hughes said beyond a meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, he had had no particular contact with the Colts.
"I had no visits or any type of contact with the Colts," he said, adding of draft day, "The day was very anxious. I just sat back and watched everything unfold.
"At the same time, I was excited because I was living a kid's dream."