|Colts' new cornerback ready to prove doubters wrong|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 05 May 2007 14:22|
He didn't buy into it then, and he's not going to start now.
``I've been hearing those things all my life, but I've always done good playing football,'' he said.
The Colts need Hughes, their third-round pick in last week's draft, to prove the doubters wrong again.
With both starting cornerbacks from the Super Bowl - Jason David and Nick Harper - lost to free agency, Indy is patching up a thin secondary and Hughes figures to be part of the solution.
Marlin Jackson, their first-round pick in 2005, is expected to start on one side. But who will start opposite Jackson?
Among the candidates are Kelvin Hayden, who sealed the Super Bowl win by returning an interception for a touchdown; Tim Jennings, a second-round pick last year who struggled with injuries; T.J. Rushing, a seventh-rounder in 2006 who is more of a return specialist than cornerback and Tanard Davis, a practice squad player.
Hughes and fifth-round pick Michael Coe joined the Colts' mix last weekend, and Hughes relishes that opportunity.
``This is a high-caliber team and I might get to contribute right away,'' he said Friday after his first workout with the Colts. ``So this is probably the best fit for me.''
At California, Hughes demonstrated he could cover man-to-man but played better in zone coverage. He finished his senior season with 72 tackles and eight interceptions, tying for second in the nation and one short of Deltha O'Neal's single-season school record, as he earned All-America honors.
Initially, Hughes thought he'd go early in the draft, but a substandard time in the 40-yard dash at February's NFL combine sent his draft stock plummeting.
Scouts wondered if Hughes could cover the league's speediest receivers and by last weekend, he was sliding down draft boards.
After waiting nearly 11 hours during the draft, the Colts finally called.
``It was a little nerve-racking waiting around all day,'' he said. ``But I'm happy to be in the place I am.''
The Colts believe Hughes can give them another playmaker in the secondary and with Coe, a 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back from Alabama State, two rounds later, they think they've added some depth.
Coach Tony Dungy liked what he saw during the first day of workouts.
``What we have are two really polished cornerbacks for college players,'' Dungy said. ``They understand what we're talking about, they understand the game of football. So I think we'll be younger, but we'll be fine.''
Coe faces a different set of questions.
Some think he might be more suited to playing safety, while others question if he can elevate his play to an NFL level after spending last season at a Division I-AA school.
But he does have some big-time experience, having starting 14 games at Arkansas before eventually losing the job to Chris Houston, the Atlanta Falcons' second-round choice last week.
One thing Coe believes will help is learning the game from two Pro Bowl receivers.
``You know what happens, but you've got to put it behind you,'' Coe said. ``You don't want to get burned, but you know it's going to happen some times, so you just have to try and limit the times it does happen.''
Hughes doesn't quite see it the same way.
He's adjusted quickly to the different skill levels, earning a starting job at Cal his freshman year.
Those who doubted him then likely will now, too, but Hughes isn't concerned about what they have to say. He's here to prove them all wrong again.
``I'm tired of hearing it,'' he said. ``As long as we can get back to the Super Bowl, I'll be happy. And Coach Dungy likes playing people early, too.''