ZIONSVILLE, Ind. —On Nov. 8, 2015, Indianapolis Colts fans got a taste of what an inspired Andrew Luck can do.
Taking on the undefeated Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts saw Luck — who had already battled his way back from injury that season — lead the team on two go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter to topple the eventual Super Bowl champions, 27-24.
Amazingly, Luck suffered a lacerated kidney and a partial tear of an abdominal muscle early in the fourth quarter of that game; but, in what would end up being his final game of the season, Luck wasn't about to let those issues get in the way of a huge midseason victory.
Most recently, Luck has faced adversity of a different sort. After undergoing surgery to his throwing shoulder in January 2017, Luck and the team had hopes he'd be ready to go by early in the season. He did eventually return to the practice field in a very limited capacity in October, only to experience some soreness and be shut down for the rest of the year.
The outside chatter has certainly been loud since Luck was placed on Injured Reserve on Nov. 2. When will Luck start throwing again? Will he ever be the same? Dos he need additional surgery? Can he avoid the injury bug moving forward?
Publicly, Luck and the Colts have remained consistent in their message about the quarterback's ongoing rehab work: he's taking things step-by-step, he's not skipping any of those steps, he's feeling great, he's fully ingrained in the installation of the team's new offensive system and, while he's yet to throw a regulation football, he hopes to be 100 percent ready to go by the start of training camp.
But, behind closed doors, the feeling is that Luck — already considered one of the more talented players at his position in the NFL — is more than ready to let his play do some talking for him when the 2018 season gets underway.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard, speaking on Thursday at the Rotary Club of Zionsville's fundraiser luncheon, took some questions from fans, and, of course, No. 12's status eventually came up.
"He's doing good," Ballard said. "Strongest I've seen him, both mentally and physically."
Ballard acknowledged that Luck hit a "rough patch" last year in his attempts to get back onto the field, but has enjoyed getting the opportunity to witness the quarterback's ability to fight through those issues and put himself back into position to be a major playmaker for his team.
"I mean, look, we're sitting on a unique human being; what he stands for (is) everything we want to stand for," Ballard said. "Really, one of the growths that I've seen in Andrew — I mean, Andrew is very talented, and he's been talented his whole life. And we're really getting to see some of his internal grit right now to get over a hump that was very difficult to do."
So when will Luck get back to throwing the football?
Ballard didn't budge on that topic on Thursday — "Do I wish he would just go out there — and let's just fill the stadium and let's just throw 150 balls? God, that would be great. But that's just not where we're at," he added — but whenever that does happen, and whenever No. 12 goes under center in regular season action, there's no doubt that the team will see that same inspired Luck take the field once again.
"I think it's a great thing when you have a great player with a chip (on his shoulder) — and we've got one," Ballard said. "And thats going to be fun for all of us."