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COLUMN

Luck set to do his job and ignore the hype

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For more on the Colts mini-camp, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Colts quarterback now on the job full-time

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 7:03 am

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrew Luck threw a pass that hit the ground. Seriously. He did. One. It bounced off tight end Dwayne Allen's chest.

The Indianapolis quarterback messiah completed his first 12 passes in his first walk-through of his first minicamp in Day One of a new Colts era, then completed his final three after that one drop. Granted, it didn't come against fierce defensive pressure, or any defensive pressure, but let's not quibble over details.

Luck is the guy who replaces superstar Peyton Manning, but don't talk to him about being the face of the franchise just yet.

“I have to earn that stuff,” he said. “I don't approach it like that. I'll learn as much as I can. I'll do my best job so I can help all these veterans get back to the playoffs, get back to being a great team, get back to winning championships.

“I just try to do my job and not get caught up in anything else.”

Luck is finally a full-time Colt. The academic obligations to complete his architectural design degree that kept him at Stanford for the last six weeks are over. He's set to attend graduation ceremonies this weekend in Palo Alto, but that's just a formality. Football is, at last, his 24-hour-a-day focus.

“I have no obligations after minicamp other than football,” he said. “I have to get some work in after these organized activities.”

Because of NFL rules regarding college players working to finish their academic obligations, Luck had to miss the Colts' 10 team activities and the offseason workouts, although he did attend last month's rookie camp. He couldn't talk to Colts coaches about NFL matters, but he was allowed to bring a playbook back to Stanford. There, he and another Stanford player-turned-Colt, free agent receiver Griff Whalen, spent 90 minutes every morning going over the plays.

Trying to make up for lost time is fine, coach Chuck Pagano said, as long as it comes without rushing.

“You just have to come in, be yourself and do your job,” he said. “Do what you do. Do what you've been doing your whole life. Don't press. If you're in a slump, the worst thing you can do is press and swing harder.”

Luck gets it.

“When I get to the point where I look stressed out,” he said, “maybe (Pagano) will say something. So far it's been all right.”

Mixing football with classes wasn't easy.

“I'd wake up with a serious lack of motivation to go to class,” Luck said with a laugh. “I'd work out and do football stuff in the morning. Then I'd eat lunch, go to afternoon classes and do whatever needed to be done for classes.

“I've managed to learn the playbook a bit. I wanted to get a good start on that. I don't think I'm starting on zero. I've built somewhat of a base. I've tried to work out and make sure I'm ready to handle a bunch of reps at the minicamp, and so I can handle a training camp.

“I wish I could have been here. That wasn't the case. I have to fight through that and get over that roadblock.”

More than ever before, rookie quarterbacks make instant impact. Look at Andy Dalton in Cincinnati and Cam Newton at Carolina last season, who were starters from opening day.

Yes, Pagano has noticed.

“They had zero (minicamp) sessions. They did it on their own. Knowing what they did is comforting because (Luck) is still ahead of the curve even though he hasn't been here the whole time.”

Luck seems better prepared than Newton or Dalton. First, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up played in a pro-style offense at Stanford. Second, his father, Oliver, was a former NFL quarterback who taught his son the subtleties of the position. Third, he's bright and puts in the time.

“He's one of the quickest learners I've ever met,” said Colts rookie tight end Coby Fleener, also from Stanford. “He's just a brilliant kid.”

Pagano takes it a step further.

“The guy is off the charts as far as football IQ,” he said. “There's no mental errors. He hasn't missed a beat.

“He's really focused. He's really driven. You look at the success he's had and there's a reason behind it. Football is very important to him. He's a gym-rat type of guy. We're very pleased with where he's at.”

Monday's pleasure came via half-speed drills. The emphasis was on play calling, getting into the right protections, recognizing what was there, executing the throws.

“I don't feel overwhelmed,” Luck said. “The guys have been very welcoming. That's a good sign. It makes the transition easier. This is a great opportunity for myself and the team.”

Luck wasn't the only quarterback at the minicamp. Backup Drew Stanton got some practice reps. Chandler Harnish, the former Norwell High School and Northern Illinois standout, was there, as was Texas-El Paso's Trevor Vittatoe and Hampton's David Legree.

But Luck gets the spotlight, and that won't change. High expectations don't faze him.

“I have somewhat high expectations of myself,” he said. “Maybe higher than others have for me.”

Not likely. Everybody expects Luck to be the next Peyton Manning. But consider this -- as a rookie Manning threw an NFL-record 28 interceptions, completed just 56.7 percent of his passes and led the Colts to a 3-13 record. And that was with a more talented team that included Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison.

Luck wants more. So does Pagano, and if it doesn't happen this season, well, this is for the long haul.

“We're just trying to build something special here,” Pagano said. “They've won here. They had a great run. What we're going to try to do is build something that will stand the test of time, so you look back and say we did this for a long period of time. It wasn't just a quick fix.”

There are no guarantees. Luck could become the next Ryan Leaf rather than the next Manning, but that worst-case scenario seems as likely as Terrell Owens signing with the Colts.

“As far as an attitude standpoint, which is probably the only thing I can make a judgment on, Andrew's got it,” veteran receiver Collie said. “He's a hard worker. You can tell he's on his stuff, just by the way he's pointing out the hots (routes).”

Still, Luck knows he's a leader by position rather than performance, and that must change.

“A big part of playing quarterback is faking like you know what you're talking about even if you don't know,” he said.

“It's somewhat of a slow process to earn the respect of guys. And who knows what happens when the game starts. I could totally flub it and people will lose respect. But you try to build that respect and confidence with each practice.”

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.