INDIANAPOLIS –Ushering in a new era in a franchise's history often is done with the selection of a quarterback.
The Colts have taken that significant step by choosing Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luck compiled one of the most storied careers by a collegian, helping the Cardinal to records of 8-5, 12-1 and 11-2 over the last three seasons. Luck left a school with a rich quarterback heritage, and he will be joining a franchise with a distinguished lineage of signal-callers that includes John Unitas, Bert Jones and Peyton Manning.
Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson, in his 14th season in NFL evaluation circles, believes Luck, 6-4, 234, can be a pillar for success for the franchise.
"What really stands out is Andrew's decision-making. His feel for the game is remarkable, as is his anticipation – things you can't teach," said Grigson of the qualities Luck brings to Indianapolis. "Andrew has great anticipation. He also has a great command and presence about him on the field. He's a great game manager. He's really been able to run the offense like a well-oiled machine. He was the chief operator of that machine.
"Once you look at all the tremendous skills he has and his God-given size, speed and intellect at the end of the day, Andrew fits our core vision of 'team.' That's in his DNA."
Luck arrives as the fourth top overall pick the Colts have held in an Indianapolis era that dates back to 1984. The last such pick was Manning (1998), the son of Archie Manning, who played in 13 NFL seasons with New Orleans, Houston and Minnesota.
Luck's father, Oliver, has an NFL quarterbacking pedigree as well with Houston (1982-86), one he had after an illustrious career at West Virginia (1978-81). Furthering Andrew Luck's foundation in the sport was Oliver serving on the club level and as league president with the World League of American Football. Luck served more than 10 years as vice president of business development and president/CEO of NFL Europe. He coached Andrew in Pop Warner football but never past the sixth grade when Andrew started playing for school teams.
Luck was the 2008 valedictorian of Stratford High School in Houston, Texas, and he is finishing work on an architectural degree at Stanford, one of the nation's foremost academic institutions.
"Andrew also has a great pedigree and was raised very well. He comes from a great home and a great extended family," said Grigson. "He lines up completely with the vision from day one that Jim Irsay, Coach Pagano and I wanted to implement as far as the belief system for what makes teams great. Andrew completely fits that belief system like a glove."
Stanford had seven consecutive losing seasons prior to Luck taking the controls in 2009. A school that featured outstanding previous leaders such as John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Guy Benjamin, Steve Dils, Todd Husak and Steve Stenstrom experienced a revival to the tune of 31 wins in the next 38 games under Luck, including appearances in the Orange and Tostitos Fiesta Bowls after the 2010 and 2011 seasons (Luck did not play in Stanford's Sun Bowl appearance after the 2009 season).
For his career, Luck completed 713-of-1,064 passes for 9,430 yards, with 82 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. He set school marks in touchdown passes, completion percentage (68.7), passing efficiency (162.76) and total offense (10,387), while ranking second in passing yardage. Under Luck, Stanford was 24-5 in the conference and 8-3 against Top 25 teams. His career wins and winning percentage are school marks at his position. Stanford spent 29 consecutive weeks in the AP poll, including 22 straight ranked in the Top 10.
Luck played for two seasons under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh before finishing his career under Brian Shaw. At the 2012 Combine, Harbaugh sized up Luck's ability.
"Have you ever played spades? It's a trump game. He's (Luck) holding a lot of aces in a lot of suits," said Harbaugh, the Colts' quarterback from 1994-97.
Grigson noted how Luck carried himself off the field and meshed with teammates on it.
"All the stories I have heard about Andrew and from talking to him directly, he's very comfortable around anyone," said Grigson. "He's very secure in who he is. He's not trying to be someone he's not. It's very refreshing to see from a young player going through this process.
"Andrew is a guy whose teammates really respect him not because he is in their face threatening them, it's because he has a true presence and a genuine nature, and he's trying to get everyone on the same page. He wants them all to get better and get them where they want to go."
At no other position are players judged more by results than at quarterback. "Fair or unfair, it's the nature of the business," said Harbaugh. "He's very quick to deal with it. He's very mature."
Grigson understands the nature of the business as well and knows how important succeeding is to Luck. Grigson says Luck is driven to win, but he is selfless in the pursuit.
"The bottom line for Andrew Luck is he wants to win. He really wants to win," said Grigson. "A lot of times you get a guy with all the skills, but to have someone wired like this is special.
"In this day and age to have someone be so completely team-oriented is uncommon. That's why I say Andrew's abilities fit like such a glove with what we're building. He has those values and he has demonstrated them in a genuine way throughout his career. He's completely selfless. He's all about the team. That's rare these days in any walk of life to have someone that unselfish, especially someone in Andrew's position. That's why I think he's going to be tremendously successful. That's why we're going to be successful.
"You have the captain of your ship out there on the field and all he cares about is 'W's.' He not looking for stats, he's not looking to get to Honolulu (the Pro Bowl). The way Andrew is wired, that will all happen by default.