INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Darrius Heyward-Bey stands contentedly at his new locker. It feels like home.
Here, he’s working closely with Reggie Wayne, the first true mentor he’s had since arriving in the NFL in 2009. He’s lining up with another speedster, T.Y. Hilton, in three-receiver sets and two new young talents at tight end, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. He’s catching balls from the sort of franchise quarterback he never had in Oakland, and, finally, he has some stability in the offense, too.
For Heyward-Bey, it’s a whole new world.
“I actually had a chance to see my mom this past weekend. She was like, ‘I think you made the right choice coming here,’” Heyward-Bey said as he prepares to face his former team, the Raiders, in Sunday’s season opener. “I said, ‘I agree.’”
After being clocked at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL’s scouting combine, the Raiders made Heyward-Bey a surprise pick at No. 7 overall in 2009, tabbing the Maryland standout as their game-changing playmaker of the future.
Whether it was the revolving door of coaches, coordinators and quarterbacks, a lack of focus or something else, things never worked out in Oakland.
When Heyward-Bey hit free agency in March, his resume included 140 career receptions — three fewer than Marvin Harrison had in his record-setting 2002 season with nearly half (64) of that total coming in 2011 — 2,071 career yards, 11 career touchdowns, four 100-yard games.
He also came with a reputation for dropping passes.
Wayne never bought it.
As Heyward-Bey narrowed his final choices to Detroit and Indy, Wayne called and encouraged him to sign with Indy. It may have been the best advice the 26-year-old receiver ever got.
Since joining the Colts in April, Wayne has spent countless hours working with his new teammate, showing him the daily routine of a five-time Pro Bowler who never seems to stop.