By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
If not for a certain quarterback in Seattle, T.Y. Hilton might be viewed as the steal of last year’s third round.
The Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver caught 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie after lasting to the 92nd overall pick. General manager Ryan Grigson traded back into the third round to get Hilton — giving up a fifth-rounder in this year’s draft that begins Thursday in New York.
A year later, the deal stands as one of many examples why Grigson was named the Sporting News’ Executive of the Year. As for Hilton, he learned a lot about the professional game during a surprising 11-5 playoff season.
“It’s fast,” Hilton said Wednesday in the locker room at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “I learned that I’m fast, too. But I’ve got to be more careful breaking down players and breaking down film study and watching the defense. I evaluate a game, I’m good.”
Much of Hilton’s work these days is spent studying new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s playbook.
The new scheme is expected to include elements of former coordinator Bruce Arians’ vertical passing game — as well as a few carryovers from the Peyton Manning era — blending together with Hamilton’s West Coast principles. So far, Hilton hasn’t seen many things that seem familiar.
“It’s very new so I’ve been doing this day in and day out,” he said. “You’re trying to make sure you pick up where you left off, but the offense is brand new. It’s nothing like last year so I’m just trying to pick it up.”
He’ll soon have help.
Quarterback Andrew Luck played in a similar scheme under Hamilton at Stanford. He said last week “about 75 percent” of the offense is familiar from his days with the Cardinal.
Luck has plans to head down to Miami soon to work with Hilton, veteran receiver Reggie Wayne and just about anyone else who cares to make the trip.
“We wanted to come here first and get the playbook down,” Hilton said, explaining why the group hadn’t convened earlier this offseason.
Hilton also could find another familiar face in the locker room soon.
Former Florida International teammate Jonathan Cyprien is projected as a potential first-round draft pick, and he’s one of several possibilities that could entice the Colts with the 24th overall selection.
The strong safety had 365 tackles and seven interceptions in 45 career games with the Owls and is expected to be off the board by the completion of Friday’s third round at the latest.
“I tell him just be patient, whatever’s meant is going to happen,” Hilton said of conversations with Cyprien. “If a team really wants you, they’re going to get you. So I told him just be patient and let the process go through. Just continue doing what you’re doing and prove that you have stock, and you’ll be alright.”
MORE STANFORD SUPPORT?: Outside linebacker Chase Thomas and running back Stepfan Taylor are among the Stanford products that could be drafted Friday or Saturday and fill needs for the Colts.
Has Luck — who already shares a locker room with former Cardinal Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen and Delano Howell — stood on a soapbox and put in a good word for any of his former teammates?
“I put in a good word for all of the Stanford players, ever,” Luck said and then laughed. “Hopefully, they have a chance. I’ve got a lot of buddies coming out this year so hopefully it’ll work out for them.”
Just don’t expect Luck to be glued to his couch cushions watching the marathon television coverage.
“As a fan of football, I’ll be watching the draft,” he said. “I don’t know if I have the patience to sit down on a couch for however many hours it’s going to take. But, yeah, I’ll definitely be watching to see who we take, see some of my teammates at Stanford.”
NOT IN OAKLAND ANYMORE: Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey played for three head coaches, four offensive coordinators and seven quarterbacks in four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He also never made the playoffs, with the team’s record during his stay topping out at 8-8.
So when he began looking for a new home as a free agent this spring, he was looking for a place with a strong quarterback and a good shot at the postseason. In Indianapolis, he found Luck — whom Heyward-Bey says “has potential to be one of the best quarterbacks that ever played” and a team coming off a surprise AFC Wild Card appearance.
After a little more than one week in the locker room, Heyward-Bey is feeling good about his decision.
“I see a lot of potential,” he said. “It’s a lot of young guys who are hungry. I know we got some vets in here that want to prove something to somebody so it’s good to come to a team like that.”
HIGH HOPES: Defensive end Cory Redding quickly emerged as a leader in his first season with the Colts.
He played for head coach Chuck Pagano’s defense in Baltimore and brought some of that Ravens swagger to the locker room in Indianapolis.
This year, Redding is trying to get the team’s new additions on the same page in a hurry. He has high expectations for the 2013 season, and he expects everyone to be on board with him soon.
“The goals are the same,” Redding said. “Win the AFC South, win your division, and get to the Super Bowl, period. Those are the three things we shoot for. You have individual goals and group goals, but for the most part, if you don’t do those three things, all those goals mean nothing because you’re not holding the trophy so you fell short.”