As youngsters, they parked cars outside the Miami Dolphins’ stadium.
On Sunday, Indianapolis Colts wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson return to Sun Life Stadium to play the Miami Dolphins. It’s the first time Hilton will enjoy this homecoming, the same also for running back Frank Gore and rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Johnson is making his fourth trip back.
It’s not what either envisioned. Instead of finishing the regular season with an eye toward the playoffs and competing for the Super Bowl, the Colts (6-8) are trying to sustain a playoff pulse and avoid elimination against the Dolphins (5-9).
But the venue is still special for both, and there’s a little extra riding on this game, considering the number of family and friends who will be watching.
“This is the one game that I just can’t lose, especially with all uncles and aunties (that are) Miami Dolphin fans,” Hilton said. “Next time we have that family reunion, family picnic, family dinner, I want to be able to talk.”
The fourth-year pro didn’t grow up a Dolphins fans. He just recalled parking cars to raise money for his school’s basketball uniforms. Hilton was a football and basketball star at Miami Springs High School.
Johnson, 34, went to Miami Senior High School and then played collegiately at the University of Miami. He’s not had the season he expected after joining the Colts in the offseason. The 13th-year pro has 34 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns and is on pace for the lowest totals of his career except for 2011, when he missed nine games due to injury.
But Johnson says he’ll enjoy playing in front of family and friends. He estimated his ticket requests at 190.
“Yeah, that’s always fun to get to go back home,” he said. “I grew up right there around the stadium. As a little kid you always said you wanted to play in that stadium and stuff like that. It’s always fun to get back to go home and play in front of friends and family.”
He hasn’t forgotten parking those cars, either.
“Yeah, I actually grew up right there in that area around the stadium,” he said. “I used to park cars at my aunties house to make a little money on the weekends and stuff like that. We used to park cars in her yard because she was so close to the stadium. You could walk from her house to the stadium.”
Johnson played his first NFL game at that stadium as a Houston Texans rookie on Sept. 7, 2003. He recalled how the Dolphins were touted in the preseason as Super Bowl contenders. He caught six passes for 76 yards in a 21-20 Texans win.
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