INDIANAPOLIS - The accolades are not so far in the past to make them history, but it might seem that way for a skeptical fanbase hoping for its next impact defensive end.
Six publications named him a unanimous collegiate All-American in 2009 on his way to winning the Ted Hendricks Award with 11.5 sacks and 54 tackles.
Jerry Hughes was to be the next-and replacement for-Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis. Its the reason the Colts used their first round pick on the Texas Christian defensive end.
"We've said for the last six or seven years, 'We need a third rusher, we need a third rusher. We haven't had that guy because they are so hard to find," said then Colts president Bill Polian of Hughes.
Then expectations ran smack into reality. Two years 21 tackles and just a sack are only production the Colts have gotten out of their next major defensive impact player.
Entering year three Hughes would have to deal with a front office and coaching staff that didn't select him as he tries to stay on the roster along with proving his potential.
"Not really something to prove," said Hughes when asked about trying to impress the new Colts leadership. "It was going back to playing football like I know how to play football."
On Sunday it looked like it was back when Hughes was a force at TCU. In a quarter-and-a-half of play Hughes recorded four tackles and a pair of sacks and was the defensive brightspot in the team's 38-3 victory over the Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Fast and being aggressive," said Hughes of the way he's trying to play in Training Camp in 2011. "I'm just trying to get back to what I do."
Helping the cause for him was the defense's switch to a 3-4 with the coming of new head coach Chuck Pagano, who made the Ravens a force with the scheme. Its similar to the system which Hughes experience success at TCU and his first game action proved it on Sunday.
In the first quarter Hughes got through on the end and smacked quarterback Kellen Thomas to the ground for the sack. In the second, Hughes again got quick penetration from the outside and brought down Thomas on third down inside the Colts' 20-yard line, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal.
"This defense really fits his skillset," said outside linebacker Robert Mathis of Hughes. "Proud of him the way he plays, he continues to come to work every day, get better and he's reaping the fruits of his labor."
Hughes finished the game with four tackles for the contest, arguably the best he's played in a Colts uniform. But with roster spots still up for grabs the next few weeks Hughes wasn't getting ahead of himself after a taste of success.
"Coach said make sure we go out there and execute. I felt like eveybody did that. Now we've got to get into the film and find out where we can improve," said Hughes. "It was the first game, a lot of guys out there, so we want to make sure that we keep getting better."
While at the same time getting back to his old football attitude and perhaps rekindle some of his decorated past.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun