ANDERSON, Ind. - Jerry Hughes was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round a few years ago out of TCU because the Colts were sure he was another Dwight Freeney. A little small for defensive end, but a quick first step would compensate for Hughes' lack of size.
Hughes was too small for NFL defensive end, and few have ever had Freeney's first step. Jerry Hughes should have always been an outside linebacker in the NFL. But the Colts kept him at defensive end, and he seldom could get on the field ahead of Freeney, or Pro Bowler Robert Mathis.
One of the many changes the Colts have made during the previous offseason is to finally move Hughes to outside linebacker. The Dallas Cowboys made a similar move with Greg Ellis in the latter portion of his career and he flourished. This can work.
"(Hughes) is an unbelievable athlete. He can do anything," Colts linebacker Pat Angerer told me this week at Colts' training camp. "We’ve been doing (certain drills) for years and he was better than all of us at it. He’s a freak and it will be exciting to see what he ends up doing."
If you have never met Jerry Hughes, he is one of the guys you root for. I caught up with him to see how this transition is going, and for his thoughts on TCU going to the Big 12.
The Big Mac Blog: The Colts have you at outside linebacker now – how is the adjustment progressing?Jerry Hughes: It’s going pretty well. It took the spring to work on it and during camp it’s a day by day thing. I have to get used to dropping into coverage. Having that time since the spring when this started has helped me a lot.
The Big Mac Blog: When the Colts approached you about the change what was your initial reaction?Jerry Hughes: I saw it as a new challenge for my career I wasn’t going to back down from it. They brought it up and I was excited to do it.
The Big Mac Blog: When was the last time you can recall having played “in space” like this in football?
Jerry Hughes: Never to this extent. In Gary Patterson’s defense a little bit but it’s nothing of this magnitude.
The Big Mac Blog: Have these first few years in the NFL been hard for you?
Jerry Hughes: At times, for sure. Those first few times it was hard. But going over and over it in practice but it’s carried over in the spring. Just thank God you have those reps. I have been busy to get familiar with the new defenses and just asking questions and trying to get up to speed.
The Big Mac Blog: Have you put on your lost any weight for this move?
Jerry Hughes: I lost a little weight from 260 to 255. Nothing big.
The Big Mac Blog: When you first started as a rookie and things didn't go well did it affect your confidence?
Jerry Hughes: I’d have to say at first it was tough. You couldn’t be on the field to help your team win. I see it from a different perspective. I have two Pro Bowl defensive ends to learn from. This year I am busting my butt to get on the field and play football. You want to prove to your teammates you can play football.
The Big Mac Blog: How do you think TCU will do in its transition to the Big 12?
Jerry Hughes: Of course I’m biased. I think we’re going to win. Coach Patterson is a great coach. Offense is coming along strong. The defense is going to be tough. I’ve been telling them it’s hard to get up for the small games. I think they are going to be able to get up for it and do really well. I'm really excited for them.
The Big Mac Blog: Your senior year you went to the Fiesta Bowl and the next year TCU won the Rose Bowl; were you bummed you missed out on that or by that point had you completely moved on as a pro?
Jerry Hughes: I was very fortunate to be on that team to get to that first BCS bowl. We weren’t able to pull it out. But I felt the young guys were able to learn from it and see what it’s like to play at your best. For those guys to go back to the Rose Bowl and win it I was so proud. I wore purple for that
whole month. I just so happy for TCU and those guys and to be associated with them.
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