INDIANAPOLIS — There once was a thought Andy Dalton could be the heir apparent to Peyton Manning.
Former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian was enamored with the young quarterback from TCU and brought him in for predraft workouts in 2011. Ultimately the team chose to go in a different direction and took left tackle Anthony Castonzo out of Boston College with the 22nd overall pick.
The Cincinnati Bengals took Dalton off the board in the second round just 13 picks later, well before the Colts' turn came up again.
The task of replacing Manning eventually fell to another Texan a year later, and Andrew Luck will lead Indianapolis into the Queen City on Sunday for a key late-season AFC matchup.
It turns out, Dalton's had his eye on the kid for quite some time now.
"I knew him in high school so I've kind of followed his career throughout high school, college and now being in the NFL," Dalton said. "He's a guy that's done a lot of really good things. He's a guy that's fun to watch. He's doing a lot for that offense, moving around in the pocket, getting the ball to his guys. And so he's definitely a guy that I enjoy watching."
Of course, Dalton would prefer not to see much of Luck and his offense this weekend.
The Colts and Bengals each enter this week's game with 8-4 records. The winner has the inside track on the AFC's No. 3 overall seed and can continue to entertain hopes of catching New England (9-3) for the second seed and a first-round bye. The loser likely will be relegated to the No. 4 seed and a first-round date against the 9-3 Kansas City Chiefs.
"I think this is a big game for us at home, and we know what's at stake here — not only from the playoff standpoint but for where we want to go as a team," Dalton said. "We know what's going into the game. We're coming out and going to be playing our best."