By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Jerry Hughes’ brief career with the Indianapolis Colts is over after three seasons. But it’s safe to say the former high school running back turned defensive end will be remembered around the Circle City for far longer than that.
Drafted with the 31st pick in the first in 2010, the spring after the Colts’ most recent Super Bowl appearance, Hughes ostensibly was brought in as a future replacement for Robert Mathis. Instead, the former Texas Christian star struggled to find a foothold in Indianapolis.
Hughes was traded Monday to the Buffalo Bills for inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, a third-round pick in 2011.
For many fans, the lasting image of Hughes will be a missed tackle on a kickoff return late in a Wild Card playoff game against the New York Jets in his rookie season. Antonio Cromartie returned the kick 47 yards to his own 46-yard line with 53 seconds left, helping to set up Nick Foles’ 32-yard field goal for a 17-16 Jets victory in what proved to be Peyton Manning’s final on-field performance for the Colts.
Hughes fared better last season as an outside linebacker in head coach Chuck Pagano’s hybrid 3-4 fronts than he had in the former regime’s 4-3 scheme. He had 21 of his 31 career tackles and four of his five career sacks in 2012.
“We wish nothing but the best for Jerry in Buffalo,” Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson said. “He’s a talented guy that did everything we asked of him. At the same time, we are very pleased to be getting a young linebacker who has been a productive starter in this league.”
Sheppard has made 24 career starts and recorded 138 tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery in his two NFL seasons. He left LSU ranked ninth in school history with 311 tackles and is the third former Tigers defender added to the Colts’ roster this offseason.
Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and safety LaRon Landry were signed as free agents last month. They join holdover defensive lineman Drake Nevis, a former teammate of Sheppard in Baton Rouge.
The newest Colt quickly changed his Buffalo-themed Twitter avatar to a box reading “Believe in Blue” and sent a message through the social media platform to Indianapolis fans.
“Already feeling the much appreciated love from Colts fans and organization,” Sheppard wrote, “can’t wait to get there and get this thing going!!”