If you were to listen to members of the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff, second-year wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a star on the rise.
Small by National Football League standards at 5-foot-9 and 178-pounds, the former Florida International standout has quickly earned a reputation as someone who is not afraid to go across the middle to make the tough catch in traffic.
He also has that breakaway speed to become a much-needed down field big play threat in the Colts’ retooled offensive game plan.
As a rookie last year, Hilton — who had gotten off to a slow start during spring organized team activities and summer training camp due to injuries — hauled in 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns.
He wound up as the team’s third leading receiver behind Reggie Wayne’s 106 catches and Donnie Avery’s 60 receptions.
That’s not all. He was equally dangerous as a punt returner, averaging 11.5 yards on 20 total returns.
Hilton had eight total touchdowns as a rookie, eight as a receiver (with a long of 70 yards) and one as a punt returner (75 yards).
Impressive? Yes. But if head coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton are to be believed, Hilton has only scratched their surface at how good he could ultimately become.
In comparing the differences from the player he was at the end of the 2012 season to what he’s been doing in training camp this summer, the Colts coach has been impressed.
“T.Y.’s not thinking. He played fast and you could see him the middle towards the end of last season really take off. He came in [during] the offseason and picked up right where he left off and he just keeps [the] arrow up, trending in the right direction,” Pagano said.
“He is a talented, talented guy. He is going to become an elite guy [because the game on the field is slowing down]. He feels very, very comfortable with the play call and he spends time [studying his playbook as well as practice and game video]. He’s [around] all the time. Guys take off to go to lunch, go do this, go do that. He may go eat but he’s right back in the meeting room. He’s right back studying his iPad. He’s learning what to do so he can play fast.”
Hamilton knows that it’s his job to try and find different ways to get the football to Hilton in as many ways as possible.
“I hope that T.Y. can continue to make the big plays that he’s shown that he can make in training camp. He’s probably one of the more instinctive players that we have on our offense. He just has a knack for making big plays,” the first-year coordinator said earlier this week.
“We got to find ways to get the ball in T.Y.’s hands and he’ll do the rest. I tease him all the time and I tell our guys quite often that T.Y.’s been scoring touchdowns since he played Pop Warner football, I guarantee you that because some of the intuitive skills and traits that he has, you develop those over your lifetime. You develop those as a young kid playing tag in the front yard. He’s a special player and we expect that he will continue to be special.”
Wayne — who respects hard work in a young player — is a believer too.
“Just his growth, just him understanding his role. T.Y., he’s young but he’s a professional. He’s what you want in a young guy,” the six-time Pro Bowl receiver voiced.
“He’s in meetings asking questions, writing down notes, making sure he’s on the right page with [quarterback] Andrew [Luck]. So he’s doing everything right. Whenever a young guy like T.Y. is constantly just growing and growing, that’s all you can ask for.”
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n Allen hurt — Second-year tight end Dwayne Allen was held out of Thursday’s two practices. Allen developed a sore foot after Tuesday night’s workout.
While the injury does not appear to be serious, Allen’s availability for Sunday’s preseason opener with Buffalo has not been determined. An update on his status is expected after this morning’s walkthough session.
n Landry, Lefeged sit out — Safeties LaRon Landry (knee) and Joe Lefeged (calf) both watched Thursday’s practices from the sidelines.
Landry tweaked his right knee in practice Monday and did not participate in Tuesday night’s workout. Lefeged, meanwhile, incurred a strained calf in practice earlier this week. Their status for the Bills game hasn’t been decided.
n Injury list — Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee), inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (shoulder) and offensive guard/tackle Joe Reitz (stinger) all took part in the morning walkthrough.
Heyward-Bey saw limited work in the afternoon session. He left the field briefly with a trainer and later returned to watch the rest of practice. Team officials said there was no update on his injury. Reitz, meanwhile, went through a full workout. Freeman did not participate in the practice.
Rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton (ankle) and rookie center Khaled Holmes (ankle) are no longer wearing walking boots. Thornton was injured on the final day of rookie camp three weeks ago while Holmes was hurt practice last week. Neither have been cleared to resume workouts.
Safety Sergio Brown (hamstring), inside linebacker Mario Harvey (hamstring), outside linebacker Daniel Adongo (bicep), safety Larry Asante (shoulder) and rookie fullback Dan Moore (shoulder) remain sidelined.
Cornerback Marshay Green (hamstring), cornerback Teddy Williams (quad) and rookie inside linebacker Josh McNary (hamstring) were all injured during the afternoon practice.
Cornerback Greg Toler, who returned to practice earlier this week after recovering from a concussion, was shaken up briefly during the day’s second workout. He returned to the field for the next portion of practice.
n Roster moves — Indianapolis waived-injured offensive guard Justin Anderson and waived wide receiver Roderick Rumble. The Colts added inside linebacker Sean Loiseau and undrafted rookie safety Ashante Williams, who played collegiately at Illinois.
Should Anderson clear waivers, he would revert to Indianapolis’ injured reserve list. According to Pagano, the second-year offensive lineman from Georgia suffered a “significant pec[toral]” injury which may require surgery at a later date.
Former Illinois State wide receiver Laurent Robinson was scheduled to work out for Indianapolis Thursday. A third-round pick by Atlanta in 2007, he was one of two free agent wide outs expected to get a look from the Colts.
Neither receiver was signed, although a roster move could be made before the start of this morning’s practice.
n McAfee, Luck highlights — During a special teams segment Thursday afternoon, punter Pat McAfee connected on four-of-five field goal attempts, hitting on kicks from 52, 57, 60 and 65 yards. The lone miss, from 62 yards out, hit the goal posts.
Luck, meanwhile, completed 13-of-21 passes during the workout. His lone interception, by cornerback Darius Butler, was returned for a touchdown. Butler had two interceptions returned for TDs during the workout, with the other one coming on a pass thrown by backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
n Rain forces practice changes — Due to a band of heavy showers that hit the Anderson area around mid-afternoon, the location of Thursday’s second session was moved.
Instead of working out on the regular grass field, the practice moved to Macholtz Stadium. The facility has a FieldTurf playing surface.