FIU sports blogger Pete Pelegrin was with T.Y. Hilton and his family when the wide receiver was drafted by the the Indianapolis Colts. Many thanks to Pelegrin for sharing this behind-the-scenes story. If you aren’t familiar with Pelegrin’s blog, The Prowl, check it out today. You’ll be glad you did.
Indianapolis has long been a city known for speed as in its famous race, the Indianapolis 500. Former FIU and new Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton will certainly maintain the city’s rapid reputation.
Whether it was returning a punt for a touchdown at Kansas the first time he touched the ball in college, scoring the decisive touchdown to secure the 2010 Sun Belt championship or igniting FIU with a kickoff return touchdown in its first bowl game, being on time was never an issue for Hilton during his FIU playing days.
On numerous occasions throughout his four years at FIU, Hilton delivered timely game-breaking play after game-breaking play for the Panthers en route to a prolific record-setting career. But for his NFL Draft party last Friday night at his parents’ home in Miami, Hilton was fashionably late.
The Colts made sure they weren’t tardy on the electric FIU talent. Indianapolis traded up with the San Francisco 49ers into the late third round to draft Hilton with the 92nd pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“I was kind of anxious most of the night,” said Hilton of not hearing his phone ring as draft picks were taken last Friday. “Then when the Colts called I thought they were going to take me in the fourth round Saturday. But they said, “We just traded up for you.” I was so relieved.”
Before the euphoric moment came for Hilton that night, there was a quiet nervousness in the Hilton family room where several family members, Jason Katz — one of Hilton’s agents, FIU cameraman Chris Necuze and I watched the draft with Hilton. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the historic night for Hilton and the FIU football program after he became the highest drafted FIU player.
Hopeful for the second round
When Hilton entered the room, I remarked to Katz that the former FIU receiver looked a lot stronger than the last time I saw him at FIU Pro Day on March 9. Katz wasn’t sure. Hilton greeted us and I told Hilton he looked bigger and stronger to which he proudly said he was up to 188 pounds – a five-pound increase from the 183 pounds he weighed at Pro Day.
The draft’s second round got underway and just about everyone took a seat in the family room. Hilton’s sister, Kalunda, and his fiancée, Shany Shavers, occupied one small couch. Hilton’s mother, Cora, and grandparents, Pinkie and Willie Burnett sat on another couch while Hilton’s father, T.Y. Sr., was nervously between taking a seat in the room and walking around the home. T.Y.’s four-year old son, Marquis, bounced around the room from one family member to another. T.Y. Jr., who is T.Y.’s brother, T.Y., Katz and I sat at a table in the corner of the room.
T.Y. Sr. hoped for his son to be selected early Friday so that he could immediately start his weekend with Cora. T.Y. Sr. and Cora, avid softball players, were scheduled to play in a softball tournament in Columbus, Georgia on Saturday morning. The couple planned on driving overnight from Miami to Columbus to be at the tournament when it started at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Hiltons were ready to leave as soon as their son was drafted, as evidenced by the packed softball equipment bags at the front entrance of the home.
“It’s going to be about a nine-hour ride so we kind of need T.Y. to hopefully go in the second round,” T.Y. Sr. joked.
Several draft projections had Hilton getting picked in the late second round or anytime during the third round. The Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns were a couple of the more talked about teams by draft experts that would select Hilton. However, according to sources close to the draft process, the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins, along with the Colts were the teams expressing the most interest in Hilton as the draft’s second round began last Friday.
The Saints didn’t have their first pick until the third round and took defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. The Dolphins selected offensive tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round. With two picks in the third round and needing a receiver to replace the traded Brandon Marshall, Miami took defensive end Olivier Vernon and tight end Michael Egnew.
Throughout the evening as the second and third rounds progressed, the family room grew quieter. Outside of Marquis moving around the room until settling down to play a video game on my phone, the only other sounds in the room emanated from vibrating text messages to my phone and on Katz’s two phones.
T.Y.’s phone received two calls during the evening. Each time his phone rang, everyone in the room stopped and looked toward T.Y. But neither of the two calls was the call T.Y., the people in the room and FIU nation were waiting on. As fast as he would score from any point on the football field, T.Y. quickly and politely dismissed the two calls.
T.Y. Sr. offered guests chicken wings and Domino’s Pizza – although Little Caesars Pizza would have been more appropriate since T.Y. was the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl MVP in 2010.
By the mid-to-late third round, T.Y. — who inherited his parents’ composure on and off the field — started to get noticeably edgy. I cracked to him, “Looks like you and your parents have added a couple of feet of trophies since I last visited here.” T.Y. smiled and said, “Yeah”, and immediately returned his focus to the television’s NFL Network draft coverage.
Each time a receiver was selected Katz would mention to T.Y. and I that it was good because that meant T.Y. would move up teams’ draft lists. Sure enough, when the NFL Network flashed a graphic on the best available players in the draft during Friday night’s coverage, T.Y. jumped from the 15th to the fifth best available player when the third round started.
Yet when Jacksonville took punter Bryan Anger with the seventh pick of the third round, T.Y.’s patience was tested.
“I kept thinking that it only takes one team to like you to draft you,” T.Y. said. “But when Jacksonville chose the punter, I was thinking, “What is the world coming to?”
You ready to be a Colt?
After taking the number one overall pick, quarterback Andrew Luck, in Thursday’s first round, the Colts selected a pair of tight ends in the second and third rounds and seemed to be done drafting on Friday night.
Then at 10:42 p.m. the call T.Y. had been waiting for since the moment he first stepped on a football field when he was a kid, came. T.Y.’s cellphone rang and on the caller ID the word “Colts” popped up.
Most of the people in the room stood up from their seats and slowly moved toward T.Y. When T.Y. informed everyone that the Colts traded up to draft him, the former Panthers receiver flashed a huge smile and asked his son, “Quis, you ready?” and jubilation ensued.
“They asked me, “how would you like to be a Colt?’ I said, ‘I’d love it!’ ”, Hilton beamed. “I had a good feeling about the Colts when I took my visit up to Indianapolis. They told me they envisioned me in the slot, move me around outside, get me on kickoff and punt returns. They said they could utilize me a lot.”
On his visit to Indianapolis, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who previously held the same post with the Pittsburgh Steelers, told T.Y. he saw the Colts using him like the Steelers employed Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown, a former Miami Norland High standout.
T.Y. Sr., a former Miami Springs High star receiver like his son, got emotional when T.Y.’s name was announced as the 92nd pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“Sitting through all this, it has been worth the wait,” T.Y. Sr. said. “He deserves all of this. God bless him.”
— Courtesy of FIUSports.com