T.Y. Hilton rarely gets mentioned when discussing the NFL’s top wide receivers. But Indianapolis Colts fans can testify that the speedster deserves much more recognition. Hilton became a star catching passes from Andrew Luck. After the former No. 1 pick abruptly retired, he’s had to endure some quarterback changes. As he enters a contract year catching passes from Philip Rivers, T.Y. Hilton is determined to make sure he doesn’t end up like Peyton Manning.
T.Y. Hilton has spent his entire NFL career in Indianapolis
When the Colts spent the 92nd overall pick on T.Y. Hilton, nobody knew exactly how he’d project to the NFL. After all, he didn’t exactly face elite competition playing at FIU. Yet, the 5-foot-10, 183-pounder surpassed expectations from the start. As a rookie, Hilton lined up opposite Colts legend Reggie Wayne and caught 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns.
A changing of the guard elevated Hilton to WR1 status. Displaying fantastic chemistry with Luck, he definitely rose to the occasion. From 2013-2016, the former third-round pick averaged 81 catches for 1,250 yards and nearly six TD per season. He earned four consecutive Pro Bowl selections starting in 2014. Despite his small frame, Hilton established a reputation as one of the league’s most difficult receivers to cover.
The last three seasons haven’t been quite as productive. While he did make a Pro Bowl trip in 2017, he finished 34 yards short of the coveted 1,000-yard mark. Hilton did rebound with a fantastic 2018 season, but an injury-plagued 2019 campaign resulted in career-low production.
Peyton Manning went from the Colts to the Broncos
It’s a shame that Hilton didn’t get a chance to play with Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, he arrived just a few years too late. From the moment the Colts drafted him No. 1 overall in 1998, Manning was the face of the franchise. A cerebral quarterback with uncanny field vision and intelligence, the older brother of Eli Manning became an NFL legend in Indianapolis. He set numerous passing records and dueled against Tom Brady for AFC supremacy for more than a decade.
Unfortunately, Manning didn’t get a chance to finish his career with the Colts. A neck injury that required multiple surgeries wiped out his 2011 season. After earning 11 Pro Bowl trips, four NFL MVP awards and one Super Bowl ring, he got cut by the Colts about a month before the 2012 NFL draft. While Luck took over as the team’s new franchise quarterback, Manning became the NFL’s most coveted free agent.
He signed with the Broncos and broke Brady’s single-season touchdown record in his second season in Denver. Two years later, a diminished version of the seven-time All-Pro led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl title since that fateful 1998 season in which Manning became the first overall pick.
Hilton wants to avoid Manning’s path with his final contract
T.Y. Hilton turns 31 in November and needs a new contract. At an age where most receivers fall off a cliff, the Colts’ top wideout doesn’t seem ready to call it a career just yet. And if Hilton has any say over his NFL mortality, he has no desire to follow in Peyton Manning’s footsteps. According to ESPN, Hilton made it clear that he desires to finish his NFL career right where it started. He also added that his next contract will be his last.
“It takes two sides,” Hilton said. “It’s up to [owner Jim] Irsay and [general manager] Chris [Ballard] to get the job done. I want to be a Colt. So you heard it from me.”
Whether the Colts commit multiple years and millions in guaranteed money for an aging wideout remains to be seen. The team just spent the 34th overall pick on Michael Pittman Jr. after selecting Parris Campbell with the 59th pick in 2019.
But if the Colts want to live up to their Super Bowl potential, they’ll need Hilton’s veteran presence in that receiver meeting room beyond this season. Only time will tell whether T.Y. Hilton finishes his career with the Colts or follows in Peyton Manning’s footsteps out the door.