By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Hakeem Nicks is betting on himself.
The 25-year-old wide receiver with a Super Bowl ring and a long injury history from five years with the New York Giants chose a fresh start in Indianapolis because he believes the pieces are in place for the franchise to make a long postseason run.
And the one-year, $3.5 million deal he signed with the Colts on Friday night allows him to prove to the franchise — or any other interested onlookers, for that matter — that he still can be a difference-maker at the NFL's elite level.
"I thought about that," Nicks said of the investment the deal represents in himself, "and I believe it's going to pay off."
He joins veteran Reggie Wayne and rising star T.Y. Hilton in an Indianapolis receiving corps that suddenly is loaded with options for third-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
Hilton enjoyed a breakout 2013 regular season with 82 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns before setting franchise records with 13 catches and 224 yards in a playoff victory against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Wayne was well on the way to another spectacular season — with 38 catches for 503 yards — when a knee injury cut his season short after just seven games.
Together, the three receivers have combined for 11 1,000-yard seasons and 122 touchdowns.
"That's exciting," Nicks said of the prospect of playing alongside Wayne and Hilton. "It looks like a three-headed monster to me. Last time I was in that situation, I won a Super Bowl. So I'm excited about that."
In 2011, Nicks caught 76 passes for a career-high 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns as part of a Giants passing game that also featured Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham. Nicks was even better during the postseason with 444 yards and four touchdowns in four games during New York's run to Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the NFL title game, Nicks caught 10 passes for 109 yards as the Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17.
Injuries have slowed the 6-foot, 210-pounder since. He played in just 13 games in 2012 while dealing with foot and knee injuries and fought through an ankle injury for 15 games last season.
While Nicks managed 56 catches for 896 yards before sitting out the season finale, he failed to score a touchdown for the first time in his professional career. During a conference Saturday morning with local media, he declined to discuss the past.
"Last year was last year," Nicks said. "I don't really want to get into that. I've got a new start now."
That new start includes a few familiar faces. Indianapolis running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a teammate with the Giants, and Colts wide receivers coach Charlie Williams was Nicks' position coach in college at North Carolina.
The receiver even has a little history with Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano, who was the defensive coordinator for the Tar Heels during his freshman season.
"Part of being a free agent is making the choice where you want to go," Nicks said. "We all know I'm a football player, and I feel like this is the best fit for me. The football coaches, I've heard a lot of great things about them. Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game today, and I would love to play with him."