A gifted pupil, Luck struck back by setting a number of NFL rookie records and leading Indianapolis to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
Starting Tuesday, Luck is poised for a second mini-camp that will conclude formal spring work. In control, he is ready to strike again.
“I think we’re rolling,” said Luck. “We’ll take advantage of what we have left. Mini-camp will be big for us. It’s been positive, productive so far. We’ll finish this segment well and go into the next one with some momentum.”
What may not be music to opponents’ ears is a wonderful tune to Colts fans, teammates and club brass alike.
“He’s doing well,” said Pagano. “We’ve talked at length about how bright the guy is. Even though we’ve changed some things from a system standpoint, communication, terminology, formations all those types of things, he’s very comfortable with where we are at this point.”
Luck helped Pagano author a fine rookie season, and he did so as well for his first-year general manager.
“He showed outstanding natural leadership as a rookie under extraordinary circumstances, but you continue to see it ooze out of him more and more in terms of just being that guy, that leader and that field general he needs to be for this team,” said Ryan Grigson. “He has also shown development at the line of scrimmage operationally with his cadence which is almost an art form with the top QB’s in this league.”
“The thing I did know is he is a good player. I didn’t know what kind of leader he is in the locker room. It just comes naturally to him,” said Hasselbeck, who watched Luck operate twice in person last year while with Tennessee. “He’s got a big sense of when to pull somebody aside, how to deal with coaches, just how he treats everyone around him.”
Leadership is not bestowed regardless of position. It must be earned. Being prepared for the moment is the best way.
Peyton Manning did it by commanding the huddle at the outset of work in 1998. Luck did it as well by studying while away and having that same presence and aptitude when he could be around.
He helped the Colts post just the ninth year in the franchise’s 60 seasons without losing consecutive games. The 11 wins allowed the Colts to enjoy their eighth such season in the last 10 years – the others done by Manning.
Late last season, Luck was voted one of six team captains, another measure of his standing. He is working that standing again with the manner that Hasselbeck described.
“I think it’s a natural progression,” said Luck of his leadership. “As you get older, no matter what position you are, you’re going to maybe talk a little more, have a little more presence.
“Obviously as a quarterback, you (do) that just by talking in the huddle and saying things. I think as you get older, you develop a little more of an out-spoken role as a leader.”
Wayne opened his career in 2001 by trying to earn spurs with a veteran Manning. He has helped Luck start a career that may lead to wondrous years for franchise followers.
If he did not know better, Wayne would think Luck is much farther along than year two.
“That’s my quarterback, so I’m going to be biased. I’d say he’s like a seven-, eight-, nine-year vet,” said Wayne. “He’s handling everything and starting out real well. He’s doing a great job. He’s talking in meetings. He has a little hand up on the offense, and that’s even better.
“He’s doing what a quarterback should. He’s being a leader. He’s showing everyone what to do, where they need to be. He’s ahead of the game.”
Luck always will be in the spotlight. It never has engulfed him. There never has been a stage too big. He has conquered many challenges, and year two will be a fun watch.
“He has earned the respect in the locker room. He’s earned the respect of the people around the league he has to go up against,” said Hasselbeck. “It probably makes it 10 times easier than coming in last year. He probably felt he had a lot to prove.
“He’s been off-the-charts impressive. He’s been great.”