Published November 20, 2014
All Andrew Luck wanted to do was stay composed on the field.
He could have fooled anyone.
While Luck acknowledged that he was still trying to get acclimated to a new playbook, a new locker room and new teammates, those who watched closely on Friday said the new Indianapolis Colts quarterback looked a whole lot like the one they remembered at Stanford.
"He's the same Andrew, as brilliant as ever," said tight end Coby Fleener, Indy's second-round pick and one of Luck's college teammates. "He went out and was calling plays that were probably 30 words long off the top of his head. He's amazing."
Luck wore a red No. 12 jersey, just like he did in college, and of course it helped to have some familiar faces on the practice field -- notably Fleener and another ex-Stanford teammate, receiver Griff Whalen
But the No. 1 overall pick in last week's NFL draft acknowledged Friday's debut did not feel the same.
He was anxious and nervous. Television and still cameras were scattered around the back side of the team complex, and some of the team's front-office personnel even came outside to catch their first real glimpse of the new franchise quarterback.
Most was impressed with what they saw in the first workout of this weekend's rookie mini-camp.
"He's unflappable, mature beyond his years," new coach Chuck Pagano said. "You listen to some of those play calls and you know why he's an architectural engineer. He's going to have a great career in that in about 15 years."
First, he'll get a crash course in NFL play-calling, which will be a challenge for someone widely regarded as the most polished college quarterback since Peyton Manning.
Pagano said he's hoping the 38 new players learn some simple things this weekend: What it takes to be a professional, where to line up, play calls and the tempo of practice.
For Luck, though, the expectations are greater. He's being asked to succeed Manning, who turned the Colts from an NFL afterthought into a perennial Super Bowl contender over 14 seasons. That means anything and everything the Colts' new franchise quarterback does will be heavily scrutinized, and Luck is doing everything he can to make it a smooth transition.
"I like being thrown into the fire a little bit," Luck said when asked about the immersion into the playbook. "It's like Coach Clyde (Christensen) says, throw some mud at the wall and see what sticks. But I think no matter what, you're going to struggle out there at first."
Christensen, the quarterbacks coach, and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians spent some time Friday giving Luck private lessons, but the workout was hardly a struggle.
Luck handed off on each of his first three snaps, and it took nearly 20 minutes for one of Luck's throws to hit the ground.
Of course, this is a day Luck has been preparing for his entire life.
His father, Oliver, played four seasons in the NFL with the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. The younger Luck, one of the nation's top-ranked prep quarterbacks, left his home state of Texas to play for rebuilding Stanford so he could be tutored by former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Three years into his college career, Luck was already being billed as the No. 1 prospect in the 2011 draft class and likely would have gone ahead of last year's offensive rookie of the year Cam Newton had he not returned to school.
Instead, he went back, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting for the second straight year and was the ranked No. 1 player in the draft again.
Now he must prove he can live up to the billing in a city still reeling from the March release of Manning.
"I didn't get too melodramatic out there, it wasn't too monumental in my mind," Luck said of his first workout.
He might have been the only one.
"It's monumental," Pagano said. "We've talked about it before and they (Colts fans) saw the same thing happen 13 years ago. We feel great about him, he's a natural leader."
For Luck, it's a huge weekend.
After flying back to Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday, he won't return to the Colts complex until June 8, the day after he finishes classes in Palo Alto, Calif. League rules prohibit rookies from working out with their new teams until classes end with the exception of one three-day mini-camp.
That doesn't mean Luck won't be working on something.
The Colts have already contacted with Luck's agent, Will Wilson, to negotiate a contract. Team owner Jim Irsay said last weekend he expected the process to go quickly and that Luck's deal would be almost identical to the four-year, $22 million deal Newton signed last summer.
Luck is also trying to take care of things on the field.
He's hoping to work out with receiver Austin Collie in California between now and June and has offered to travel to Miami so he can work with perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne and rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton, a third-round pick. If Luck can make all those plans work, he thinks he'll be a lot more comfortable when he returns to Indy next month.
"I'm going to try and digest all of the information first, so I can build up a little credibility," Luck said.
Notes: The Colts had kicker Austin Anderson in for a tryout Friday. Anderson is the son of Gary Anderson, the NFL's second-leading scorer with 2,434 points. Pagano said the Colts would consider signing Anderson as a free agent for training camp. ... The Colts are expected to finalize their training camp plans soon. Irsay has said the Colts will likely return to Anderson, Ind., about 25 miles north of Indy. The Colts have practiced at Anderson each of the past two summers.