In 1994, Indianapolis acquired Jim Harbaugh as its new quarterback. A year later, behind “Captain Comeback,” the Colts nearly went to the Super Bowl. Two years later, after a difficult 3-13 season, the Colts dealt Harbaugh to Baltimore so the path would be clear for Manning.
The story this time is similar, with the wrinkle that Harbaugh was the coach who lured Luck to Stanford, even though the Cardinal was coming off a 1-11 season and Harbaugh was entering his first year. “I told him, ‘Andrew, I think Jim can teach you a lot about playing quarterback,’ ” Oliver Luck said. “‘I’m not sure there’s anybody who can teach you as much.’ ”
Now, Luck will take those lessons learned from that old Indianapolis quarterback to Indianapolis himself.
“All three men are really of the same stripe,” said Bill Polian, the Colts’ general manager from 1998 until last season and the man who drafted Manning. “They’re all three great competitors. Andrew and Peyton are incredible preparation guys. They’re all hard workers. They’re all passionate about what they do. So I think he’ll fit in perfectly. He’s a worthy successor to those other two men.”
Luck was born, of all places, in Washington, D.C., when his parents were both fresh out of law school and working at District firms. The young family lived on Connecticut Avenue NW, but soon moved to Europe. They didn’t return to until Andrew was 11.
“I think kids who grow up overseas, and that includes military kids, realize there’s a big wide world out there,” Oliver Luck said. “You realize people do things differently. They have different mores, different customs, different languages obviously, different cultures. I do think it leads kids to be a little more tolerant, accepting and probably a little bit more inquisitive.”
Colts fans, concerned about the neck injury that kept Manning out all of 2011, long ago became inquisitive about Luck. “They’re talking about it all the time,” said Ballard, the mayor. Now, with the draft upon them, there is some trepidation. Can they really be transitioning to the next Peyton?
“I think most of the feeling that I have is kind of wait-and-see,” Ballard said. “But at the same time in the analysis, the similarities are almost eerie: former NFL quarterback as a father, good guy, smart guy, seems to be kind of down to earth. That’s what we’re hearing, but we’ll find out.”
For his part, Luck has evaluated, too. Long ago, as a kid in Frankfurt and London, Luck became intrigued with the design of sports stadiums. He majored in architectural design at Stanford. So he has thought some about the Colts’ facility, Lucas Oil Stadium, the stadium that Manning essentially built.
“He told me he liked it,” Oliver Luck said. “It really has some distinctive Indiana feel, kind of a barn feel. That’s cool. It reflects the values of the place.”
Thursday night, Andrew Luck will begin the process of learning more about those values. Colts fans hope he can reflect them as well as his predecessor did.