INDIANAPOLIS –Wednesday brought two things to Andrew Luck's rookie season – his being named a Pro Bowl first alternate and the need to drive in snow in what he thought was only his second time ever.
Luck navigated his way through blizzard-like conditions that dropped between eight-to-10 inches of snow on Indianapolis as adroitly as he has orchestrated the Colts' offense across the NFL all season.
While the winter season looms, Luck has worked his way through a 19-game schedule that ensures at least two more games – the finale against Houston and a Wild Card game either at New England or Baltimore.
Luck feels the rigors of his first year, but says he is at a good point as the Colts host Houston on Sunday.
"It has been long, I won't lie," said Luck of the year. "That doesn't necessarily mean it's not fun, or you're not fresh. I think…our coaches know how to keep us fresh, engaged in everything mentally and physically."
If not the face of the franchise, Luck is one of the most prominent. He took almost 42 percent of the preseason snaps after working in rookie and training camps but missing OTAs because of an academic schedule.
He has not missed a regular season snap, directing the Colts through 1,047 offensive plays. It is quite a load for the draft's top pick.
"It has been long, especially for rookies when you go through the whole combine, draft, OTAs, traveling, moving, finishing school, but it's fun," said Luck. "I'm glad we're sort of in the thick of things. I can't speak for what it would be like if you weren't in the hunt."
One of the most draft-ready players ever, being measured with predecessors was a given. Being drafted by Indianapolis meant comparisons to Peyton Manning, who was drafted first overall in 1998.
Said Luck in April, "I know that if I woke up every morning trying to compare myself to Peyton, I think I would go crazy. It's impossible. I am going to go out there and do the best I can."
Luck (325-of-599 passing for 4,183 yards, 21 TDs) has acquitted himself well in setting the NFL rookie passing record and inching toward or surpassing Manning's (326-of-575, 3,739 yards, 26 TDs) rookie marks.
Both threw scoring passes on their first preseason attempt (48 yards, Manning-to-Marvin Harrison; 63, Luck-to-Donald Brown). Manning took each of the 982 snaps in 1998, with one pass attempt being made by a wide receiver that year (Torrance Small). Luck has attempted all but one pass, with the stray one being by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton last week at Kansas City. Both Small and Hilton had incompletions.
Luck will get work this Sunday with Head Coach Chuck Pagano saying players are not resting.
"It's great. We want to go in with some momentum. We don't want to sneak in the backdoor. I know I need the work (laughs)," said Luck. "I know every game you learn from experiences and try to get better. I need to get a lot better. I'm excited, and I know the fans deserve it. They've been great all year. I'm very excited."
Pagano is back on the sidelines after watching Luck for the last 13 games while battling an illness. He believes Luck is doing well through the wear and tear of the season.
"Andrew's such a big, strong, physical guy, doesn't mean that he can't," said Pagano. "He'll tell you that he's fine but I think like anything else, you're going to (wear down).
"I think he's doing okay. Is he 100 percent? I don't know. I can't tell you that, but he'll be fine."
Luck has pluck, along with his talent. He is surrounded by other young teammates and with a coaching staff that includes offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Arians helped shape Manning from the outset, and he is doing the same with Luck.
While subbing for Pagano, Arians told players to take care of themselves and to understand what happens in December is what NFL followers remember.
As for hitting the rookie wall?
"The season doesn't allow it, especially for what's at stake and as a teammate what you owe to your teammates," said Luck. "You're not allowed to hit the rookie wall. You're not allowed, especially on this team."