Colts president Bill Polian has been looking for a pass rusher to compliment Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis for a long time.

The Colts drafted Jerry Hughes in the first round Thursday and hope he'll be the third pass rusher they've long coveted.

He thinks he finally found one.

With the No. 31 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft Thursday the Colts selected Texas Christian University (TCU) defensive end Jerry Hughes, a 6-2, 255 pound pass-rushing specialist.

“We’ve said for the last seven years we needed a third rusher,” Polian said. “We needed a guy who could step in there and perform at a similar level when one of the other two guys was out and injured. We haven’t had that guy because they are so hard to find.”

In recent playoff runs, the Colts have battled injury at the defensive end position, most notably in February’s Super Bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints.

With a bad ankle, Freeney wasn’t himself and Saints quarterback Drew Brees took advantage, dissecting the Colts’ secondary with the additional time in the pocket.

“When Freeney and Mathis were 100 percent healthy, the results spoke for themselves,” Polian said. “When they’ve not been 100 percent healthy, the results have not been what we’ve wanted. That’s the priority.”

Over the past two seasons Hughes totaled 26.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss for the Horned Frogs. Hughes was recruited to TCU as a running back in 2006, but was quickly converted into a defensive end where he became a two-time All-American. He helped lead the Horned Frogs to their first BCS Bowl game – the Fiesta Bowl – last season.

Polian said Hughes had been on the Colts’ radar for some time, but that was news to Hughes.

“I was just shocked – I was excited, overwhelmed with it,” Hughes said. “I had no idea I was on their radar. I had no visits or any contact with the Colts. I met with them one time at the combine.”

Hughes is eager to learn from two of the league’s best at his position.

“You’ve got Freeney and Mathis coming off that edge bringing that speed, bringing the force, bringing all the moves,” he said. “You can just sit back and become a student of the game by just watching them.”

Hughes is the first defensive lineman selected by the Colts in the first round since they took Dwight Freeney with the 11th pick in 2002 draft.

The position became a greater area of need after the team released defensive end Raheem Brock this offseason. Brock had been a regular in the Colts’ defensive line rotation for the past eight seasons.

After drafting Freeney and Mathis, the Colts have had little luck finding another pass-rushing defensive end.

In 2005 they took a pair of ends – Vincent Burns in the third round and Jonathan Welsh in the fifth round – and in 2008 they selected Marcus Howard in the fifth round. None of the three are currently on an NFL roster.

When Freeney suffered a season-ending injury in 2007, the Colts signed former All-Pro defensive end Simeon Rice. He was cut a few weeks later.

Polian believes that Hughes will solidify the defensive end position for the Colts and that his track record is an indicator of good things to come.

“He’s a pure pass rusher – that’s what he does,” Polian said. “The sacks and statistics speak for itself. He’s done it against great competition.”