When Ike Hilliard looks back on his NFL career, the former New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver jokes that he counts himself “fortunate enough to fool people for 12 years and play this game.”
The University of Florida product recorded 546 catches for 6,397 yards and 35 touchdowns and helped the Giants reach
win Super Bowl XXXV. And during that time, whether he actually fooled people or not, he says he learned from some great coaches including then-offensive coordinator Sean Payton and receivers coach Jimmy Robinson in New York, and Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden and receivers coach Richard Mann.
Now Hilliard hopes to take those lessons, couple them with lessons from Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan, and use them to help improve the Washington Redskins’ wide receivers unit this season.
“I just have to learn,” said Hilliard, whom Washington hired as receivers coach Monday. “I’m first and foremost flattered and honored to have this opportunity. It will be a pleasure to work for Coach Shanahan, both of them, learning from both guys. I just think at the end of the day, now being behind the 8-ball a little bit just get there and work, learn as much as I can, detail it the way it’s necessary to be detailed in order to be able to communicate what needs to be done for our coaching staff and do the best job that I can there.”
This will mark the third stint in Hilliard’s young coaching career. He got his start as Jim Haslett’s wide receivers coach for the UFL’s Florida Tuskers in 2009. This past season, he served as the Miami Dolphins’ assistant receivers coach.
Of Hilliard, Mike Shanahan said he “had my eye on him, and I had the chance to talk to him in some detail. I like how he handles himself. He’s got some great experience in the league, I’ve heard some great things about him through people he’s played for and coached for.”
One of the people giving Hilliard a strong endorsement was Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen, who was Tampa Bay’s general manager while Hilliard played there. Allen was impressed with Hilliard’s knowledge and passion for the game and knew that he would be able to transition into the coaching ranks with success.
The hope is that Hilliard can make an impact on a position that aside from aside from Jabar Gaffney, who recorded a career-high 947 yards and five touchdowns on 68 catches, was plagued by inconsistencies and disappointments last season.
While coaching the South team’s receivers here at the Senior Bowl this week, Hilliard is working to learn the Redskins’ system, and in the coming weeks, after moving his family from Miami, he will further immerse himself in the offense. He believes it will come quickly.
“Concepts are familiar. I’m a West Coast [offense] guy,” he said. “I played in it 11 of my 12 years, so I’m familiar with the concepts. Terminionlogy is something I’m going to have to continue to grind on, just learning on the job. That’s some I’ll do from Day 1 when I get there.”