ANDERSON – One of Jim Irsay’s most vivid training camp memories came when he was a youth and legendary quarterback John Unitas told him to move out of a chair so he could sit down.
That memory has stuck with Irsay during his 41 years with the Colts, and he has other such recollections of players and moments during that time.
During Irsay’s teenage years, Bert Jones was in his heyday as the club’s signal-caller, and the two remain friendly to this day.
The 1975 Colts, in particular, are a favorite of Irsay’s, and there have been others that etched their place in his heart.
Among many things of which he is excited, one is the poise of his gifted quarterback.
“I think it’s tremendous,” said Irsay of Luck’s growth. “You hear the words, ‘sophomore slump.’ I don’t know if people just use it because it sounds nice and it rhymes.
“I really think with Andrew, it’s great because he doesn’t have that first year where he’s making all the adjustments and he’s answering all the questions that he did coming. The second year, he just has really a chance to even be more focused. The distractions and some of the newness that can lead to some insecurities are gone.”
Luck started every game, took every snap and was one pass shy of having every one of the team’s pass attempts. Manning had the exact scenario 14 years earlier.
Luck set numerous club and rookie records, guiding the Colts to an 11-5 mark that included seven fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks. It tied the NFL seasonal record done six other times, including by Manning.
There are other seasoned eyes in Colts camp other than Irsay’s.
“He’s our leader. He’s been more vocal this year and rightfully so,” said Wayne of Luck. “I’m the vice president, I’m not the president. It’s his team.
“He sets the tone, he sets the pace, especially for the offense and whenever he has another mission to take care of, that’s when I step in. That’s what vice presidents do.”
Like every great performer, Luck is not satisfied with what has been accomplished as long as there are challenges ahead.
Hopefully for him, there will be 14-plus years of challenges like there have been for Manning.
This year’s immediate project is learning the offense being installed by Pep Hamilton, Luck’s offensive coordinator at Stanford.
Though versed in the attack prior to Indianapolis, there still is something to learn daily here.
“There is always learning going on in a sense,” said Luck. “There is still installs going in for plays and a lot of stuff we did around minicamp and OTAs and sort of troubleshoot the field. There is still new stuff and learning going on every day.”
Irsay spoke after last season about the bar being set high in 2013. He has voiced the desire for multiple championships almost as often as Chuck Pagano has mentioned “hoisting” the Lombardi Trophy.
Irsay footed the bill for the camp T-shirts depicting that specific goal, and he is comfortable with his man under center.
“He’s well in stride now as a veteran player,” said Irsay. “That’s going to show in his play, even though I think he was unquestionably the rookie-of-the-year last year. I don’t think there’s any denying that, (with) what we accomplished.
“He’s just going to keep getting better.”