T.Y. Hilton to Colts: How the Speedy WR Will Help Turn FIU into Bigger Program

Randy ChambersAnalyst IApril 28, 2012


T.Y. Hilton stands at 5'10", and is only 183 pounds, but he's big enough to carry two football teams on his back.

The former FIU Panther was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts during the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. He'll be expected to help stretch the field for the Colts, a team that is basically rebuilding on the offensive side of the ball and desperately looking to surround their new quarterback, Andrew Luck, with playmakers.

Hilton has the potential to really stand out. In four seasons at Florida International, he caught a total of 229 passes for 3,531 yards and 24 touchdowns. Keep in mind those numbers are from playing on a team that had a run-first offense.

Hilton is the main reason the Panthers won their first bowl game ever in 2010 against Toledo. It was his hook and lateral play on 4th-and-17 that kept the drive alive and eventually led to a victory.

He also holds pretty much every FIU receiving record there is, and is the first player in the program to catch a touchdown, rush for a touchdown, pass a touchdown and return a kick and punt for a touchdown in the same season. He did everything for that school.

But even with him no longer playing for the Panthers, he may end up having a bigger impact on the school than when he was playing.

Florida International is still a very young school, a baby pretty much. Their first season was in 2002 and they've been a member of the Sun Belt Conference since 2004. Although the last two seasons they've reached a bowl game under head coach Mario Cristobal, and they believe they can eventually become another big-time school in the state of Florida.

That next step will start with the help from Hilton.

The small wide receiver from Miami, FL is now the highest draft pick in school history and only the fourth Panther to have a shot to step foot on an NFL field. The only player from FIU that has become something at the next level is linebacker Antwan Barnes, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007. (He finished last season with 11 sacks playing for the San Diego Chargers)

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson believes they have found a diamond in the rough with Hilton and hopes he'll become the playmaker for Indianapolis, the way he was for that small school in Miami.

"When you get a great player who electric like that, that's fun," Grigson said via CBS Sports.  "Sometimes you have to go up and grab those guys. He's a little bit undersized, but I'm ecstatic about getting him."

The Panthers' recruiting classes are slowly getting better each year, as players around the country are beginning to realize you don't always have to go to a big school to have success. Hilton can be another example to come out of the university that will continue to help this program grow.

For every big play or touchdown he makes for the Colts, he is basically still making one for the Panthers.

Hilton may not be a big wide receiver by NFL standards, but he's big enough to carry two teams on his back.