Sometimes, things are simple. Take, for instance, the Colts opening up their Monday night game against the New York Giants on a furious passing pace. "Pep dialed up some passing plays, so we went with that," star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said when asked why that was.
There's another explanation for the high volume of passes the Colts are throwing, and Hilton is part of it. Together with quarterback Andrew Luck and a plethora of weapons, the Colts boast the NFL's number one offense. In an offense that features a number of weapons and a quarterback who knows how to spread the ball around (eight different players have at least 21 receptions this year), one receiver has emerged as one of the best in the NFL: T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton has caught 56 passes for 937 yards and 3 touchdowns, putting him on pace for 100 catches, 1,666 yards, and 5 scores. He is averaging 104.1 yards per game through the first nine games - if he increases that pace by just over 8 yards per game over the final seven, he'll be in line to break Marvin Harrison's franchise record for most yards in a single-season. He ranks second in the league in receiving yards and fourth in receptions this year, and has 43 first downs on 56 catches - 77% of the passes he catches go for first downs. In his first two years in the league he played in 34 games for the Colts (including playoffs) and caught 157 passes for 2,337 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has played in 40 regular season games and has caught 188 passes and 2,881 yards and 15 touchdowns. Over the second half of last year Hilton emerged as the team's clear number one receiver, a designation he's carried over to this year on his way to becoming a star.
People always mention the Colts' going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck at quarterback, and that certainly has been a great transition. But what about the wide receiver position? They've gone from Marvin Harrison to Reggie Wayne to T.Y. Hilton as their number one receiver. They haven't had a drop off while they search for their next number one receiver, and that has led to a lot of success. It was the future Hall of Famer in Harrison mentoring Wayne, and now it's the future Hall of Famer in Wayne mentoring Hilton.
Wayne, who Hilton calls his big brother, has been a huge help to the young receiver. ESPN's Ashley Fox, in a must-read profile on Hilton, wrote:
Wayne understands the value of being a mentor. Former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison was one to Wayne when Wayne entered the league in 2001.
"Marv did it for me," Wayne said. "He just did it a little different. Marvin didn't talk much, but when I did ask him stuff he told me. But Marv was more of a just-watch-me, lead-by-example type.
"I can do both. If you ask a question, I don't mind sitting down. Let's rap at lunch. We sit down, and we talk. You want to pick my brain? We can talk all day."
Hilton has picked Wayne's brain extensively about how to exploit defensive backs, how to get into the crease, how to use his hands to make difficult catches and how to break down film. And Wayne has shared all that and more.
In a great Q&A with Hilton, the Monday Morning Quarterback's Jenny Vrentas has another quote on how Reggie has helped out the young star:
I always watched Peyton throw to Marvin and Reggie, and playing the game Madden, I would always put myself in at the slot [as a Colts receiver] just to play with those guys. For me to be here now, playing with Reggie ... the things I can learn from him and grow ... I call him my big brother. He's always there for me, always looking after me. Whenever I get a chance, I make sure to ask him any question that I have. With Andrew, me and Reggie, we have that same aspect that we can be good like they were. So that's what we look forward to.
Hilton goes on to explain how in everything from his route running to the drops that plagued him during his rookie year, Reggie Wayne has been there to help him. Of course, that only goes as far as Hilton is willing to learn, and he's a guy who's ready to listen and improve his game. And it only goes as far as Reggie is willing to help, and the team leader is more than happy to assist in any way he can. And just by watching Hilton play, it's easy to tell Reggie's influence. Widely regarded as one of the game's best route runners, Wayne's expertise in that area is rubbing off on Hilton, who is clearly improving in the area and picking up on some things.
Just like Reggie Wayne essentially took over as the number one receiver toward the end of Marvin Harrison's career, now T.Y. Hilton is taking over as the number one receiver toward the end of Reggie's career. And by all accounts, it seems like the combination of Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton will be around for many years to come - until, hopefully, yet another number one receiver comes to Indianapolis.