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.
He's won 68.2 percent of his 22 career starts (15-7) after stepping under center for a team that finished 2-14 in 2011.
As much as Manning is talked about as Luck's predecessor, he chronologically replaced Dan Orlovsky as the Colts' starting quarterback. And that timeline is enlightening.
Orlovsky, now a backup in Tampa Bay, was the third quarterback used by Indianapolis during the disastrous 2011 campaign. He replaced Curtis Painter, who now backs up Eli Manning with the New York Giants. And Painter, in turn, replaced veteran Kerry Collins — who was concussed in his third start with the Colts and retired following the season.
Think about that for a moment.
Three quarterbacks — including Collins, who started in a Super Bowl for the Giants — playing with the same coaching staff and many of the same teammates who helped Manning win a division title the year before, collapsed under the pressure of playing in the four-time MVP's shadow.
Luck, in his rookie season with a brand-new coaching staff and a heavily remodeled roster, won 11 games a year later and led the Colts back to the playoffs.
Replacing a legend is never easy, but Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said Luck is uniquely wired to confront the challenge.
"If he sat there and dwelled on all that (Manning's legacy), he wouldn't be able to focus on the task at hand," Pagano said. "And that was be the best quarterback that he could be."
Luck's off to a 4-2 start again this season. He already has victories in his young career against Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson. But he lost his lone showdown with Manning's closest peer — New England's Tom Brady — and he's well aware of the immediate challenge ahead.
Luck grew up watching and cheering for Manning, and he still sounds like a big fan.
"He is a great role model for guys my age growing up, younger guys, just how to play the position, how to handle yourself on and off the field," Luck said. "I've always had the highest respect of him. My dad (Oliver) backed Archie (Manning) up my dad's rookie year (with the Houston Oilers). We always really enjoyed watching all the Mannings play. I definitely hold him in the highest respect."
Among the least repeated comments from Colts owner Jim Irsay this week was his assertion that Manning told him to draft Luck when the two were discussing Manning's future early last year.
The Broncos quarterback didn't confirm or deny that talk this week, but he made his high opinion of Luck clear. And even he couldn't avoid making a few comparisons.
"He's a heck of a quarterback," Manning said. "He played early as a rookie, which is always a challenge, but something I've always believed made a big impact on me and playing as a rookie. I know Eli said the same thing. He sure did have a great first season and certainly used that first season to his advantage, and he's off to a heck of a start this year."
Andrew Luck has never attempted to replace Peyton Manning.
- Arabians make history in Muller thriller Pendleton Heights beat Anderson 3-2 to become the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament's first repeat champion.
Lady Ravens refusing to lose
The Anderson University softball team swept Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe Transylvania University on Saturday at Raven Field to finish a perfect 8-0 at home this season.
- Arabians win third straight County softball title It was a scenario Pendleton Heights had seen before. The game was scoreless late into the championship game of the Madison County softball tournament.
- Bulldogs rally past Eagles at Muller Kallen Brooks went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, including a walk-off double in the eighth inning, and Lapel rallied to defeat rival Frankton 3-2 on Saturday at Memorial Field.
- Eagles stop Lions to claim third place Frankton's Tia Sharp drove in three runs including the game-winner in the bottom of the sixth as the Eagles defeated Liberty Christian 11-1 here Saturday.
PH pushes across only run in 7th
After Frankton's Kyleigh Garner and Pendleton Heights' Bailey Benefiel battled one another to a standstill from the pitcher's circle for six innings, it took one mistake in the seventh to decide the outcome.
- Arabians sweep track titles again Beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures greeted the competitors at the Madison County track meet Friday at Madison-Grant. The Pendleton Heights boys and girls teams were looking to take the county for the third year in a row, but Anderson and Lapel had other ideas. It started off as a record-setting meet and finished with a bang as Pendleton was able to wrap up both titles. The girls held off a stiff challenge from Lapel to win 167.5-147, and the boys took the final event of the night to squeak out a 156.5-148.5 win over Lapel.
- Arabians clip Eagles, go for Muller repeat The competitive feeling at Pendleton Height’s Bill Stoudt Field quickly faded Friday during the semifinals of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament. The Arabians once again took advantage of the opposing team’s generosity as Frankton pitchers gave up six walks and hit five batters, and Pendleton Heights took the 14-3 victory.
Arabians win County net title with 5-0 shutout
An intriguing battle awaited and there was no indication what the team scores would be. Considering the Frankton Eagles had home court advantage, the Pendleton Heights Lady Arabians came hungry for the Madison County tennis title. Pendleton aced a 5-0 win and came away with the crown.
- Indians scratch back into Muller final A young and inexperienced Anderson team again proved its mettle Friday in the semifinals of the Nick Muller Memorial Baseball Tournament. The Indians (2-3), playing without several expected starters to open the season, clawed out a 10-6 victory against Lapel (2-2) at Memorial Field to advance to the championship game for the 10th time.
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