INDIANAPOLIS – Colts fans got a glimpse of their future Wednesday, and Andrew Luck got a taste of how challenging the transition from Peyton Manning could be.
When the No. 1 overall draft pick walked off the field after a two-hour practice at Lucas Oil Stadium, he was surrounded by reporters and then signed autographs for hundreds of fans stuffing placards, posters and footballs in his face. Some were dressed in Manning jerseys.
The new franchise quarterback embraced the whole scene.
"It's great, a lot of energy. This was definitely the most fans I've practiced in front of and I think it got better as practice went on," Luck said. "I'm really looking forward to playing in front of the best football crowd in America."
The Colts billed the public workout as a chance for potential ticket-buyers to get an up-close look at the views from seats that remain unsold.
In reality, most of the estimated 7,500 fans showed up for one reason: To see Manning's replacement throw passes for the first time in a Colts uniform.
Luck has been inside Lucas Oil before, less than 24 hours after Indianapolis officially began the transition from a four-time league MVP to the No. 1 draft pick. On that day, Luck threw one pass — a short completion to a 9-year-old who had life-saving surgery at Riley Hospital for Children.
On Wednesday, Luck was throwing to receivers such as Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Donnie Avery.
He wound up completing 26 of 37 passes when Indianapolis' revamped defense was on the field, drawing loud cheers when he hooked up with Collie for a TD pass near a sideline. Three of Luck's incompletions were spikes during the two-minute drill.
Fans weren't interested in the numbers, though. They just wanted to see if Luck could live up to the hype of being dubbed the most NFL-ready quarterback since Manning entered the league in 1998.
Judging from first impressions, Luck passed.
"He's the real deal, he's looking very sharp right now," said Larry Lineback, a 42-year-old Indy native. "He overthrew one and that was the only one I've seen."
Still, Manning wasn't far from anyone's thoughts inside the stadium. Lineback wore a No. 18 jersey, like a smattering of fans. Some were wearing the Colts traditional colors while a few donned Manning's new jersey, from the Denver Broncos.
There were plenty of Luck shirts in the crowd, too.
"I understand why they did it, it's a business decision," said 37-year-old Ernie Jenks of nearby Mooresville, who wore a T-shirt that read "Luck Knows" and brought his 4-year-old son decked out in a brand new No. 12 jersey.
"I think some of the fans really wanted Luck and wanted to push Peyton out so quickly after the injury they may end up regretting it if Peyton continues to win 10 or 12 games a year and gets to a Super Bowl," Jenks added. "I hope the best for him."
Fans weren't the only ones who were impressed with Luck's performance.
Wayne, the perennial Pro Bowler who said last week that he wanted to see if Luck could throw an NFL ball, liked what he saw, too.
"We've still got work to do, but I like him," Wayne said. "He's got a great ball, nice spin on it and whenever your quarterback is having fun, you've got to have fun, too."
It marked the eighth time Luck has worked out with the Colts since being drafted in late April. He practiced five times during a three-day rookie mini-camp in May and returned Tuesday for two more practices after classes wrapped up at Stanford.
The Colts have one more practice scheduled during this three-day mini-camp, which ends Thursday morning.
After that, the rookies will hang around for two more weeks of work. Veterans won't return until they report to training camp July 28 at Anderson University, about 30 miles northeast of Indy.
Between now and then, Luck and his receivers have promised to get together and continue practicing on their own.
Coach Chuck Pagano can't wait.
"I thought Andrew did a heck of a job, both quarterbacks, really," he said. "I know there were a couple of balls they'd like back, but that's always the case. We've got two weeks left in their seven-week program and there's a ton of things to work on."