They chatted and texted each other this week, as if it were any other NFL week.
It’s not, though, for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. The childhood friends will share Heinz Field together Sunday night when the two 6-5 AFC teams meet in primetime.
“Our relationship is remarkable, you know?” Hilton said Wednesday. “I text him after some games and (after) some games he texts me.
They chatted Tuesday night. No trash talk among buds.
“We always talk about going out there and putting on a show,” Hilton said. “We look forward to it this week. I told him to have his nachos and cheese ready with extra cheese. He said, ‘I’ll be ready, and you make sure you’re ready as well.’”
Brown clarified the meaning of nachos and cheese on a conference call.
“That means get ready for the show,” he said. “When the ‘Ghost’ (Hilton) comes to town, you know it’s going to be a show. So bring your popcorn and your hot dogs and keep it ready because he’s going to motivate.”
Separated by one year, both played for T.Y.’s father, Tyrone, at Gwen Cherry Park in Miami. Both are small wide receivers with a lot of heart and a ton of speed. The didn’t play at big-time college programs, Hilton went to Florida International, then in the Sun Belt Conference. Brown started out at FIU, but had his scholarship rescinded and he transferred to Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference.
They had to prove themselves, these small guys from small schools, to become NFL stars. Brown, 5-10 and 186, was a sixth-round pick by the Steelers. Hilton, 5-9 and 180, impressed the Colts enough that general manager Ryan Grigson traded up to select him in the third round.
But it’s played out as they had always planned. Where they once fell out of touch, the NFL has reunited them and renewed their friendship.
“It’s one of those things where you just want to be great,” Hilton said, referring to their grinding work ethics.
Brown has become one of the NFL’s best receivers, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro first-team choice last season. He was just named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for November. The Steelers playmaker is second in the league with 85 receptions for 1,192 yards.
Hilton made his first Pro Bowl last season to join his buddy in Hawaii. The Colts’ No. 1 wide receiver the past two seasons is on the verge of another 1,000-yard year and was rewarded in preseason with a five-year, $65-million contract extension, $39 million guaranteed.
“The one thing with me and him, you can’t teach heart,” Hilton said. “That’s what we both have. We’re not afraid to go across the middle. We’re both dynamic when we have the ball in our hands.”
Hilton caught two touchdown passes in Sunday’s 25-12 home win over Tampa Bay. He usually does his “T.Y.” hand-gesture celebration to thank fans. But he deviated after his first score with a Miami dance he called the “Bobble Walk.” He crouched over and put his hands over his helmet as he danced. Then he did the usual “T.Y.”
After a touchdown against New England, Hilton imitated a Brown TD celebration.
“I want to see him do well after I do well,” Brown said. “I think we are always competing against each other.
“We both want to win for our teams. We know how important it is in the month of December to win games to shape for us a playoff run. I think we just want to be the reason why we win and we both want to have exciting days that people can get excited about in Miami, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and all over the world.”
Hilton was asked, if he was a defensive back, how he would cover Brown?
“I’d need help,” he said, smiling.
So, as they say, get the popcorn ready to watch two friends try to put on a show Sunday night.
“It’s one you don’t want to miss,” Hilton said.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.