ANDERSON –There are a few secrets to longevity in the NFL, and all of them boil down to preparation and hard work.
Drew Stanton is starting his sixth NFL season, and he has appeared as a starter in four of 13 outings in what has been a Strock-like start to a career.
Colts and NFL fans remember Strock, who started 22 of 167 games during a 15-year career with Miami and Cleveland before he spent the final nine games of the season on the Indianapolis active roster, without playing.
Strock maintained a long career by being ready behind a starting quarterback and taking command of moments that presented themselves.
While a comparison of Stanton to Strock is very premature, the need to stay sharp and attuned to details is critical. The current term is "mental reps." It is something necessary at all times.
"I think you have to when you play this position. You always have to be ready to go," said Stanton. "It's one of the most important positions because you never know when your opportunity is going to come, but you don't want to drop off. The preparation and professionalism that goes into that is of someone who has to take that in a very high regard."
Stanton was the 43rd overall choice of Detroit in 2007, but his opportunity with the Lions did not play out as he had wished. Stanton appeared in 13 games after missing his rookie season with an injury. He was deactivated for 16 weeks in 2011 in favor of Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill. His career was altered when Stafford arrived as the first pick in 2009. Stanton spent a brief time with the New York Jets this spring, and the arrival of Tim Tebow from Denver precipitated the move to Indianapolis.
His time in the league thus far has driven home the importance of an aggressive preparation approach at all times.
"I think that is something that you're in there and you're constantly getting mental reps, you might not be getting all the physical reps," said Stanton. "You have to be sitting there taking notes. There's constant communication going on. You have to be as involved as you possibly can, and really trying to be on the same page as those guys. Like I said before, you don't want to drop off when you get in there. You want to be able to operate on the same level that the starter is."
In his first year at an NFL helm, Chuck Pagano has drilled into his charges the need to be ready at a moment's notice. What he has seen from Stanton and rookie Chandler Harnish is what he expects and appreciates.
"They're coming along great. They're moving the offense with the limited amount of reps that they're getting," said Pagano. "It just goes to show that in the meeting room they're digesting everything, taking the mental reps on the side. So if something happens we've got full confidence in Drew (Stanton) at this point, and Chandler (Harnish), that they could come in and move our offense and put points on the board. I feel great with were those guys are at."
Stanton knows the level of quarterbacking play and team accomplishments that have gone on in Indianapolis for a number of years. He hopes to do his part to keep a proud franchise heritage going.
"Obviously, they've had a lot of success over the past decade with some great pieces still in place here, and that tradition and the fan base and all that still exists," said Stanton. "We have to uphold that. From my standpoint with (Ryan) Grigson and Coach Pagano and BA (Bruce Arians) and all those guys, they make work fun every single day you come in here. Having a quarterback coach like Clyde Christensen has been a huge attribute for me, somebody to lean on, who has had a lot of success, coached some great quarterbacks, coached some great guys. I think you can learn a lot from him.
"Also, (there's) my standpoint of trying to help these two young guys and show them what it's like to be a professional in this league. I think Andrew (Luck) and Chandler (Harnish) both have a tremendous upside. Obviously, Andrew being the number one overall pick and getting in there and playing right away, he's going to have a little bit more on his plate. But both of them can handle everything that's going to be thrown at them."
There is no discounting that Stanton is the only quarterback on roster who has seen NFL-level fastballs thrown by opposing defenses. When he can, he passes on tidbits to his teammates.
"When the opportunities present themselves you try and do that, little bits and pieces here and there," said Stanton. "It's a respect factor. They have to respect what I'm trying to tell them, but also I have to respect them and how hard they work. I think it's a relationship that's built on trust. It takes time, but I think there's no better time than right now.
"These dog days that we're in right now of getting out there and getting the little reps and the little nuances that go into the patterns here and there. Getting out there and trying to be as big of an advocate as I can on every single play breaking it down, maybe it's a footwork thing, maybe it's an eyes thing, maybe it's just a pure read and progression type of deal."
As for himself, Stanton will never lessen his preparation pace.
"You're one step away as a back-up in this league, especially being entrenched in a new offense and trying to absorb as much of it as you can as long as you," said Stanton. "I am constantly trying to learn and understand what I need to do. All the good teams in this league, leadership needs to come from this position. It doesn't matter who it is, or who is out there, when they're out there, what they're doing.
"You never know what's going to happen. You have to prepare that way. I've done that my entire career now."