Horseshoe Hero: Luck Shows Poise, Character in NFL Debut

Colts, 38 – Rams, 3

He came in to the league under an unusually high amount of pressure, and that is something to be said for the first overall draft pick. Andrew Luck, the rookie quarterback from Stanford, was to replace Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback to ever grace a football field. Yes, Luck had obvious talent, but how would he handle playing in the NFL with such lofty expectations surrounding him? Surely, he would need a snap or two to get the jitters out, to get comfortable.

At least, so I thought.

Andrew Luck jogged onto the field cheered on by a sold-out crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon. He stood at the line of scrimmage, called a play, took the snap from center Samson Satele, stepped back in classic form, and threw a screen pass to running back Donald Brown. His first completion.

But wait, there’s more.

Brown ran…and ran…and ran. He didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.

Luck’s first pass as an NFL quarterback was a 63-yard touchdown.

Sound familiar? That’s right: Peyton Manning’s first NFL pass was also a touchdown – a 48-yarder to Marvin Harrison in 1998. The similarities continue to pile up between the two pocket-passers, and – to be frank – I’m beginning to be creeped out a bit. Not that I’m complaining, by any means, but it’s a little eerie how alike they are.

The only downside to Luck’s first NFL pass/completion/touchdown was that from there, the only direction in which he could possibly go next, was down. Luck followed up his first snap with an incompletion and a hand-off to Brown for a 5-yard loss. But from there, he went back up again.

Luck played for a total of 24 snaps, lasting for less than 2 quarters of play. But that was all he needed to lead the Colts to two more touchdowns: a 23-yard pass to Austin Collie in the end zone and a handoff to Delone Carter, who ran one yard for his own score.

For the day, Luck completed 10 of his 16 passes, throwing for 188 yards. Perhaps just as impressive was that he avoided being sacked, despite being protected by an offensive line that has just two returning starters. On one particular play, Luck evaded several Rams defensemen and ran for a 9-yard gain, sliding to the turf like a seasoned veteran. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

What impressed me the most was that Luck utilized all of his receivers. He did not seem to favor veterans over rookies, former teammates over new ones, wide receivers over running backs or tight ends. I saw passes completed to Brown, Collie, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Melwelde Moore, LaVon Brazill, and Quan Cosby. If you counted correctly, you’d realize that the rookie quarterback successfully got the ball to seven different players of various positions, heights, and levels of experience. Have you forgotten yet that this was just Luck’s first outing?

Luck is unquestionably the Horseshoe Hero of the first week of the preseason for his performance alone, but his character off the field following the game only upped his stature. Despite the high amount of praise he received, Luck remained cool, humble, and even critical of his performance. In his press conference, he reminded reporters that he still has plenty to work on and improve upon. He even apologized for a particular end zone incompletion intended for lineman Joe Reitz:

“I feel terrible about that (pass) to Joe,” Luck admitted. “I told him I owe him about 20 steak dinners. Any time a lineman gets a chance to catch a touchdown, he deserves it, and I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.”

That, my fellow Colts fans, was by far the quote of the day.

Here are just a few more things to keep in mind when evaluating Luck’s performance yesterday:

  • The Colts scored more points in their 38-3 route of St. Louis than they did throughout the entirety of last season.
  • Luck threw for more yards in less than half a game than quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky threw in the entirety of six games last season.
  • The win was the first in a preseason opener for the Colts since 2004 (8 years).
  • This is just the preseason, and things will not always be so easy for Luck. It’s important to remember the general learning curve allotted to rookie quarterbacks.
  • Peyton Manning went 3-13 in his rookie year, but the following year he turned the team around, and the Colts ended up going 13-3. Luck may endure similar hardships, but things will get better. He has the talent.
  • According to head coach Chuck Pagano, Luck already knows the entire playbook. Wow.

The Colts play next on Sunday in Pittsburgh against the Steelers, and the game will air on NBC in primetime (8 p.m. EST). The following day I will share with you my next Horseshoe Hero (a new player). This may be hard to do if Luck keeps things up, but there are plenty of capable playmakers on this team. I’m ready for a great season.

Go Colts!

For more frequent Colts updates, you can always follow me on Twitter: @catierae08.

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Tags: Andrew Luck Austin Collie Donald Brown Indianapolis Colts Joe Reitz Preseason St. Louis Rams

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