Andrew Luck left the first impression that the Indianapolis Colts are again in good hands.
Luck came into Colts camp as the No. 1 pick and heir to the great Peyton Manning's position, if not his kingdom and commercial endorsement deals. Yes, it was only rookie mini-camp where pressure does not evoke Ray Lewis or James Harrison in irritable third-down moods.
But the Colts coaches called plays, the fresh rookie receivers ran routes and Luck aired out the football. It was appropriate that the Sunday sun was shining brightly, and Luck ended mini-camp with a red-zone touchdown throw to Jabin Sambrano.
Asked how much he improved from Friday to Sunday, Luck said “leaps and bounds.”
“The chance to get practice reps is huge, and to get on the field, get all of the reps and put something on film that you can go back to and have it start clicking,” Luck said. “So, leaps and bounds.”
Luck heads back to Stanford University to complete his last college semester and graduate with his class, “closing the chapter” on that part of his life.
Until he returns June 8, here are a few impressions on the start of the Luck Era:
*Confidence. Luck demonstrated his quarterback personality from the moment he walked on the field, taking snaps, making throws, soaking in as much of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' offense as possible. You want your quarterback to walk like he's in charge, and Luck does.
Much has been made of Colts coach Chuck Pagano calling him “unflappable.”
If that adjective sticks, it's one of the best ones an NFL quarterback can possess.
“He is the same Andrew, and he is as brilliant as ever,” tight end and Stanford teammate Coby Fleener said. “We went out and he is calling plays that are 30 words long off the top of his head. He is amazing.”
*Attitude. We've all seen the rookies who waltz into camp, strutting around like they are God's gift to football. They know it all, and they're not afraid to let that show.
Luck might just be God's gift to the Colts. You'd never know it by his nonverbal cues. His attitude has been one of learning first, downplaying his own skills and getting to know his teammates, at least the ones other than Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen, who also played with him at Stanford.
Reporters asked Luck if he was naming plays in the offense, something Manning did over the years.
If Luck has named any, he's not conceited enough to brag about it.
“(I'm) trying to digest all of the information first and maybe build-up a little credibility for myself,” he said Friday. ‘I am definitely the bottom of the totem pole. I haven't really done squat. But I'm sure through the process there will be open lines of communication. If something happens or needs to be changed, then I will definitely try to have my input on it.”
*On-camera personality. One of Manning's greatest traits is to assume a public modesty. When he has commented on his own skills, it's in a humble, working-hard-to-get-there style of delivery.
Luck demonstrates the same media savvy. One comment in particular resonated from the first day. He was talking about the fact he'll miss Colts' organized team activities in May and early June because of the end of his college classes. He said he'd like to throw with Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne in the meantime.
Collie has a home in Sacramento, Calif., not too far from Stanford.
Wayne is in Miami.
“I won't make Reggie come to where I am,” Luck said. “I'll go to where he is.”
Somewhere Wayne surely smiled.
*Arm strength. The Colts didn't overly tax Luck's arm, but he threw long passes, short passes, sideline passes, passes over the middle, dump passes. You name it, Luck threw it.
They all looked good.
One of his first passes during the walk-through style workout on Friday morning was a deep pass to T.Y. Hilton. Placement: perfect. On Sunday, Luck was working in the red zone, zipping passes at an impressive clip, several observers noted.
His last throw was the touchdown.
“Coach Arians said that, I think, 86 percent of games in the NFL come down to four points,” Luck said. “That is the difference between a touchdown and a field goal, so it is always nice to work in the red zone. Fun to score some touchdowns, and not so fun to throw interceptions down there. Glad we could stay away from that. But I thought it was a good way to finish.”
*Endorsement. None other than Peyton Manning was in Indianapolis on Saturday night for the Celebration of Caring Gala benefiting the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent.
Manning was asked about Luck, a player he has known for some time.
“I think he'll fit in perfectly,” Manning told reporters. “He's a great player. He's a great kid. I've talked to him and I know he's excited about getting started. I can remember that same feeling I had as a rookie.”
Colts fans thinking “déjà vu”?
Luck's first impression did nothing whatsoever to dissuade the notion.