INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck has never attempted to replace Peyton Manning.
His image does not adorn Lucas Oil Stadium in the place where Manning’s banner once hung. He doesn’t run a fast-paced, no-huddle offense with a running soundtrack of audibles at the line of scrimmage. And he doesn’t hold the heart of an entire state in his hand.
He does, however, wear the same blue horseshoe on his helmet that became synonymous with Manning over 14 seasons. And comparisons are inevitable.
“I understand when people ask the question,” Luck said this week in front of his locker at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “I would ask the same question if I was a fan or part of the media or in different shoes in a sense. I’ve always felt I’m very fortunate to play quarterback in this league. A chance to get paid to play a kid’s game is a wonderful opportunity. It never grinded on me or wore me down.”
Luck is aware of the standard set before him. How could he not be?
Seven consecutive seasons with 12 or more victories. Six AFC South championships. Two conference titles. And, of course, an NFL championship in Super Bowl XLI.
Manning quarterbacked teams in Indianapolis that won more games from 2000-09 than any other team in any decade in league history. No Colt ever will wear the No. 18 jersey again, and there even is talk of a statue being erected to celebrate Manning’s career sometime in the near future.
So it’s not too difficult to understand how Luck has been relegated to sidekick status as Manning prepares to return to Indianapolis for the first time with the Denver Broncos tonight.
But it would be wrong to marginalize the accomplishments the 24-year-old Stanford graduate already has achieved.