By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Tannehill began his college career as a wide receiver at Texas A&M, though he never stopped attending quarterback meetings.
His Miami Dolphins use elements of the read-option schemes that are all the rage in the NFL, though Tannehill rarely will keep the football and run himself.
He's an athletic quarterback who still is at his best in the pocket and a No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft who still doesn't get a ton of recognition outside of his home market.
It's fair to say Tannehill resists categorization.
"I don't really look to label myself at all," he said Wednesday during a conference call at the Indianapolis Colts training facility. "My first instinct is not to run, for sure. I want to get the ball out downfield, go through my progressions, have great pocket presence, be able to move around, stand in there and make a tough throw with pressure in my face. But I also think I have the athleticism to get out when I need to, to be able to move the pocket and to move the chains with my feet."
If that answer sounds a lot like the Colts' own second-year quarterback, Andrew Luck, that's no coincidence.
Tannehill did not enter the league with the same level of polish as his draft class' No. 1 pick — he made just 20 career starts for the Aggies — but the two share several similarities.
Both are athletic enough to make plays with their feet but prefer to win with their arms. Both are currently playing in the pros with an offensive coordinator who coached them in college — Tannehill with Mike Sherman in Miami and Luck with Pep Hamilton in Indianapolis — and both are products of the prolific Texas high school football factory.
Tannehill was a star in Big Spring, while Luck made his name in Houston. Other current NFL starters with ties to the Lone Star state include New Orleans' Drew Brees, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Washington's Robert Griffin III.
"Well, there's a lot of people playing, and that helps," Tannehill said of the surge of signal-callers from his home state. "It's a large state with a lot of guys playing so the pool size helps. But I think the seven-on-seven in the summer is the biggest thing. It's so big right now. Almost every high school is running a spread offense or a version of spread offense. So kids are getting a lot of throws, and they're playing year-round due to seven-on-seven."
The benefits of those repetitions were on display last year at Lucas Oil Stadium when Luck's Colts outlasted Tannehill's Dolphins 23-20 on Nov. 4.
Tannehill played a terrific game, completing 22 of 38 passes for 290 yards and one touchdown. But Luck was even better, finishing 30-of-48 for a rookie record 433 yards and two scores. Neither quarterback turned the ball over.
It could be the start of a career-long rivalry, and the rematch is set for Sunday in the Circle City. But the players themselves are friendly.
Luck first met Tannehill at the Manning Passing Academy during the summer before their final college season in 2011, and some of his high school teammates played with the quarterback at Texas A&M.
The players seem destined to be linked together in their pro careers through their status as members of the Great Quarterback Class of 2012. But Luck resists labeling the pair as rivals.
"It is a bit of a fraternity," he said. "I know fans and media love to have those subplots and create a little more of that dynamic than is there. I have a lot of respect for Ryan."
The feeling is mutual.
Tannehill was impressed last season as he watched Luck take hit after hit from the Miami defense and continue to make strong throws in the pocket. Every meeting between the class' top quarterbacks — Griffin, Luck, Tannehill and Seattle's Russell Wilson — has potential to be a classic.
"It could be fun," Tannehill said. "The NFL is a tough league, and every week's going to be a tough game. When you play someone you know, it makes it that much more competitive and that much more fun at the end of the day."