It’s probably fitting that the Indianapolis Colts are holding their summer training camp at Anderson University – a Christian school about 30 miles north-east of Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’s fitting because Colts fans are treating Andrew Luck like the second coming of you know who and his own team-mates, veterans who have seen it all before and should be even-keeled about the whole thing, are speaking reverently and with tremendous excitement about the young rookie out of Stanford.
It’s a bit like the hype surrounding Tim Tebow last year, only this time the guy receiving all the attention can actually throw a picture-perfect pass and he looks every bit the superstar quarterback.
On a beautiful summer day on Wednesday, I finally got to witness what all the fuss was about, albeit in a practice and not a real-life game. And Andrew Luck is as good as advertised, folks.
First of all, he throws such a pretty pass. The ball literally fizzes out of his hands and his spirals are genuinely perfect in terms of technique. So he passes the eyeball test in terms of delivering a good football.
But Luck offers so much more than that.
He is a real leader and a highly intelligent quarterback who has already completely mastered the Colts’ playbook.
There were plenty of examples of that during Wednesday’s practice. Luck would jog to the line of scrimmage, bark out some signals and then wait a second or so for the defense to show its hand. And when they did, he would back away from the line of scrimmage, shout out an audible to the players either side of him and then get back under center to take the snap.
Who does that remind you of? At one point I had to check Luck was actually wearing number 12 because it looked a lot like he should have been sporting an 18 jersey.
I spoke to Andrew after practice and he is happy to accept he is always going to be compared to Peyton Manning. He knows that is a story he cannot control, so he just lets it run, politely answers questions about the comparisons and then gets on with the part he can take care of – his own form and development.
Although he is often mentioned in the same breath as Manning and is being billed as a superstar in the making, Luck is genuinely one of the most down to earth people you could ever wish to meet.
He is grounded and has no airs or graces about him. Before we started filming, we chatted quite a bit about nights watching the Frankfurt Galaxy in the old Waldstadion, the Scottish Claymores, Kurt Warner and his love of Premier League soccer.
Luck’s ego is never going to rage out of control and I see him being cut very much from the same cloth as Peyton. Hard-working, intelligent, a leader and somebody who can make every throw in the book with clinical efficiency.
The Colts may not have surrounded Luck with all the parts he needs to be successful just yet, but they are in good hands with this young man at the helm and it’s easy to see why they grabbed him quickly at the very top of April’s NFL Draft.
Here are some other observations from the road...
- These Colts are young, really young. I think they will be improved in 2012 and won’t be going through another two-win season. But I also don’t see them embarking on a miracle run to the playoffs. They are in the process of rebuilding (although Andrew hated that phrase when I used it during our interview) and might not be able to make significant moves until 2013 when they are being projected to have an NFL-high $43 million in cap room. For now, more than a third of their salary cap is tied up in dead money – in other words they are paying players who are no longer on the team such as Manning, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Gary Brackett. With one hand tied behind his back like that, there is only so much general manager Ryan Grigson can do in one off-season.
- With the exception of 12-year veteran Reggie Wayne, the Colts are very young at receiver. Austin Collie has four years of experience but there are a bunch of first year guys or very inexperienced players who will have to step up and catch passes from Luck this season. While this group is a bit raw and wet behind the ears, they have the potential to be really exciting because they possess blazing speed. T.Y. Hilton has been described as a touchdown waiting to happen and he clearly runs really well, but he has been slowed with injuries this preseason. The one who caught my eye on Wednesday was LaVon Brazill – a sixth round draft choice out of Ohio. It was only training camp, but he looked like he has speed to burn and showed good hands on several occasions. That speed among the receivers is something Grigson is looking to replicate across the board. The Colts will be more physical under head coach Chuck Pagano, but Grigson is also putting an emphasis on team speed.
- The Colts are going to use the tight end a lot this season and they have two good ones who could be factors in the NFL for the next decade. Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen looked really impressive on Wednesday and are smooth athletes who can get downfield. I also don’t expect one to take away catches from the other – look for both of them to be on the field at the same time a lot this year.
- Although I was tired and didn’t arrive at my hotel room until 1am on Tuesday night, I was able to enjoy my five-hour drive from St. Louis to Anderson, Indiana, thanks to one radio station I stumbled across during my journey across three states (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana). I’m not the biggest music fan in the world but I toe-tapped my way all the way up to my hotel. And when they announced the name of the radio station I felt it kind of summed up where my musical taste sits, not just these days but for as long as I can remember. Anyway, I’m not too concerned – if you are ever driving through America’s Mid-West I can heartily recommend THE TRUE OLDIES channel !
I’ll be off to the Patriots in a few minutes – I am currently writing this while looking at Gillette Stadium outside of my hotel room window – and have requests in for Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Vince Wilfork.
I’m here for two days so hopefully I can tick every single one of those guys off my list. Check back in tomorrow and I’ll let you know how I got on !