INDIANAPOLIS –When Ryan Grigson joined the Colts as general manager and Chuck Pagano followed as head coach, both espoused the need to have pillars in place to build the program in Indianapolis.
The 2012 draft days were opportunities to select players who could become pillars, and the first step of the three-day process landed a big addition in quarterback Andrew Luck.
"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," said Grigson.
Luck is one of the most decorated collegiate quarterbacks in history. This past year, he earned Walter Camp Football Foundation Player-of-the-Year honors, won the Maxwell Trophy as the nation's top player and earned the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Trophy. Luck was a two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player-of-the-Year and twice finished second in Heisman Trophy voting (behind quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III).
"The intangibles are off the chart. You know the skill set. You've seen the body of work. He's a gym rat. He's a football junkie," said Pagano. "He's big, he's strong, he's physical. He can make every throw out there, and he's a great leader in his own way.
"We've got a great one for years to come. It's another piece of the puzzle we feel really good about, obviously. … I know this, on any level if you don't have a quarterback, it's really, really hard to win, especially in the National Football League."
In 2011, Luck completed 288-of-404 passes for 3,517 yards and 37 touchdowns, capping his career by hitting 27-of-31 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. Luck completed 713-of-1,064 career passes for 9,430 yards, with 82 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, setting school marks in touchdown passes, completion percentage (68.7), passing efficiency (162.76) and total offense (10,387).
Luck, 6-4, 234, also rushed for 957 yards and seven touchdowns during his career (first among school quarterbacks), including three rushes longer than 50 yards. While the rushing component likely will not be emphasized in the NFL, the element of foot speed also drew attention in the evaluation process. It is an important aspect of Luck's overall physical package.
"He's built almost like a prototype NFL tight end and his strong build stands out immediately the first time you lay eyes on him," said Grigson. "He's probably faster than most tight ends in this draft at that (tight end) size. The play speed you see on film really measures up. You see Andrew get outside the pocket and you say, 'This guy can really run.' It really translated to what he ran at the Combine.
"There is the arm strength that people talk about. He can really throttle down his throws. Andrew has an arm that he can use at a different rate of velocity. When he needs to put a lot of heat on the ball, he can do that. He's a great 'touch' passer but when he needs to chuck it hard, he'll put a lot of mustard on it. I saw there was a tremendous amount of velocity in his throws at the workout."
Grigson is a veteran talent evaluator who is tasked to help rebuild the program in Indianapolis. The Colts suffered a 2-14 record in 2011 to earn the top pick in the draft that yielded Luck. Grigson has made previous personnel moves since joining the club on January 11, but April 26 stands as a significant date with the addition of Luck.
"To me, there's not a better prospect from the neck up that I've seen than Andrew," said Grigson. "When you're evaluating quarterbacks that's the most important thing – what a guy is from the neck up, how they're wired, their zest for the game and their true competitiveness. Andrew has all of that, plus the body and the speed.
"The speed is an added bonus you almost forget about when you think of all the things you need an NFL quarterback to do. It's such a bonus to have a guy that big that runs in the low 4.6's (40-yard dash). It's a rarity to have Andrew's skill set and his intangible package, then have speed as well. He's special in all those ways. You can check off the boxes and everything is outstanding with him. Andrew is something else."
True leaders produce when on-field opportunities are present. A leader also makes a mark with a measured style showing restraint, respect and inclusion of teammates. Luck earned Grigson's nod in those areas of leadership.
"In terms of his completions and accuracy, what he's done in the red zone is remarkable. Last year, his TD:INT ratio in the red zone was 27:0," said Grigson. "At Stanford, he was described as someone who could make himself small to his teammates, but in their eyes it made him a giant because he's not demeaning in any way. But when the time comes and bullets are flying and he needs to rein people in, he will do that. Andrew is a leader. His leadership style is very strong, but it's not one that is overbearing to the point of ostracizing people. That's really unique and genuine.
"In this day and age to have someone be so completely team-oriented is uncommon. … 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."
Former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh was Luck's head coach at Stanford in 2009 and 2010 after successfully recruiting Luck from Stratford High School in Houston, Texas. Colts fans remember Harbaugh for the leadership he showed in four memorable seasons (1994-97) in Indianapolis. Harbaugh was a performer around whom teammates rallied and while at Stanford, he commented about the leadership style used by Luck.
"The cool thing about Andrew is that he makes himself small and builds up everybody else around him," said Harbaugh. "Of course, by doing that, he makes himself huge."
Luck went out of his way on numerous occasions at Stanford to deflect praise, honor teammates, remain selfless and try to fly below the radar screen. He will not be replacing Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. He will be playing the same position Manning happened to play for the same team.
One thing he shares with Manning is having a father who played the sport. Oliver Luck is to Andrew what Archie Manning is to Peyton. While at Stanford, Andrew shared some fatherly advice he received on how to handle himself, and it reveals one reason for the unselfish nature that Grigson cites.
"When somebody else toots your horn, it's twice as loud," said Luck during his Cardinal career.