INDIANAPOLIS-- With the brashness of a boxer's mentality, new Colts safety Tom Zbikowski made it very clear what his expectations are heading into his first season in Indianapolis.
After four years of playing behind All-Pro safety Ed Reed in Baltimore, Zbikowski headed into the 2012 off-season with one goal on his mind—to become a full-time NFL starter.
"Going into free agency I was looking to work with a team that saw me being a big part of the defense," Zbikowski said. "Obviously nothing is guaranteed but I was just looking for someone that saw me playing safety, that needed a spot to be filled at safety and work from there."
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano brings in one of his former players to help a depleted Colts secondary that saw five players make their NFL debuts in 2011 while three players were placed on injury reserve.
Zbikowski knows he will not be just penciled into the starting 11 without earning his way on the field and frankly, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"This is the NFL, there are a ton of good players," Zbikowski said. "Chuck's got to go with what's best for the team and that's something I've always known and something that I've always respected, and something that I'll live by cause that's what football is. If there is someone that can do it better than me I expect that person to be in there but I don't expect anybody to be better than me."
This past season, Zbikowski earned that starting role in the first four games of the 2011 season.
But after a bye week, he saw his starting role vanish and played sparingly on passing downs for the rest of the season.
The safety was still getting playing time on one of the NFL's best defenses but now he feels the time is here to become a regular starter.
"If you ever had to deal with me before it's not going to be fun now because I have an enormous chip on my shoulder," Zbikowski. "It should be pretty enjoyable to spend time with me until I accomplish what I want to accomplish. It's something that kind of lit a fire in my stomach because I've never lost my job in my entire life."
Even though he wasn't in a starter role on defense, Zbikowski still was an important cog on all of the Ravens' special teams units.
He has played on multiple coverage units and has 30 career kick and punt returns in his four seasons.
Along with the comfort of Pagano, Zbikowski is very familiar with new special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf.
Maalouf spent the last four seasons as an assistant special teams coach for the Ravens and Zbikowski says he knows his number is always available to be called on any unit.
"I love to play as many plays as I possibly can," Zbikowski said. "That's why I've always used boxing as a tool (for) conditioning. I have had a relationship with Marwan Maalouf, the special teams coordinator. Since my rookie days, he's been an assistant in Baltimore too. He knows my mentality, knows my personality, if there ever is a time he needs me, he can plug me in at any position."
The days on special teams for Zbikowski dates back to his college career at the University of Notre Dame.
He has always has had a knack for making the big plays on the grandest stages scoring four touchdowns during his junior season including a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown against No. 1 USC.
The familiarity with Pagano is one of a number of things that drew Zbikowski back to the state where he played his college football.
As the Colts roster begins to get more familiar with their new head man, it's Pagano that knows what he's getting in Zbikowski.
"Tom is a very dedicated and fiery player," Pagano said. "His competitiveness drives him to perform at a high level and his aggressive style of play parallels the attitude we're looking for from the defensive unit. We're very excited Tom will be joining the Colts this season."