Monday’s news the Indianapolis Colts will return to Anderson University this summer for the fourth straight year came as little surprise.
An announcement has been expected for weeks, and the school remains the team’s most logical training camp home. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty to look forward to as we count down the days to the players’ arrival — likely in late July.
Stunningly, a healthy camp for Andrew Luck this summer will tie him with Peyton Manning for years with on-field appearances in Anderson.
Manning’s first training camp as a rookie in 1998 took place at AU, and he was the only player still on the roster when the team returned to campus to train in 2010. But the four-time MVP was injured and did not take a snap during training camp in 2011.
He was, of course, released by the team last offseason and had signed with the Denver Broncos by the time wide receiver Reggie Wayne reported for duty amongst a convoy of Humvees last summer.
Luck’s first camp was something of a curiosity, following a regime change that also brought in general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano. But the new-look Colts became a national story last season.
Pagano’s battle with leukemia inspired a “ChuckStrong” campaign that put blue plastic bands on the wrists of seemingly every football fan in central Indiana and made the Colts the second choice for NFL fans nationwide.
Against that dramatic backdrop, Luck broke the rookie passing record — bringing it back to Indianapolis after Cam Newton borrowed it for a year in Carolina — and led seven game-winning drives. His performance — and Wayne’s sustained excellence — helped Indianapolis improve to 11-5 and sneak into the playoffs as an AFC wild card.
Despite the surprise success, it was another offseason of sweeping change in the Circle City.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians — who won nine games while Pagano underwent chemotherapy — left to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He was replaced by Pep Hamilton — Luck’s coordinator at Stanford — who is expected to bring in elements of the West Coast offense.
Watching that attack come together will be one of the primary story lines of camp.
Another will be the influx of new talent.
Popular veterans Dwight Freeney, Austin Collie and Jerraud Powers were allowed to leave as free agents. In their place, the Colts signed 10 free agents from other rosters. That number includes eight potential new starters, six of them on the defensive side.
Coordinator Greg Manusky’s defense also got a shiny new piece in the first round of the draft with the selection of Florida State’s Bjoern Werner. The German-born defensive end is a longtime admirer of Colts star Robert Mathis and will transition to outside linebacker in Indianapolis’ hybrid 3-4 scheme.
The Colts captured the hearts of the nation in 2012, and they’ve set their sights on bringing home a championship in 2013.
Thanks to Monday’s news, we know the road officially begins — again — in Anderson.