INDIANAPOLIS –NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the NFL Draft just moments after eight o'clock Thursday night.
His greeting to the audience had barely concluded when he then read a card proclaiming the Colts, as expected, had made quarterback Andrew Luck the first pick of the draft.
Luck had been in New York going through pre-draft proceedings that included interviews and appearances prior to tonight's climax.
As he hugged family, donned a Colts cap, strode toward Goodell and embraced him under the brilliant lights at the Radio City Music Hall in the heart of Manhattan, Luck truly was on center stage.
It was then his experience shifted into yet another gear that topped what he had tried to anticipate before reaching New York.
"It exceeded all expectations on all levels, from the energy, the excitement to the media circus afterwards," said Luck of the draft paces through which he was put. "It was all sort of way over the proportion I expected it to be at, which is great. This is a big deal, I guess, and I'm just glad to be a part of it."
Welcome to the NFL. Definitely, welcome to Indianapolis.
Luck is the fourth top overall choice the Colts have had in their Indianapolis era. Luck joins the Colts after a storied career at Stanford where he set school marks and compiled a 31-7 starting record. He is a key component in a building process for the Colts, a franchise that produced the winningest league decade ever from 2000-09, but which dropped to 2-14 in 2011.
Ryan Grigson was hired as general manager and Chuck Pagano was tabbed as head coach in January, and the addition of Luck has been anticipated for some time by all parties with and around the team. The excitement from Indianapolis matched that which Luck was experiencing himself.
"(I feel) tremendously blessed that I have this opportunity," said Grigson. "I know (Owner and CEO) Mr. Irsay and Coach (Chuck) Pagano feel the same. Like everyone has said, he is a once in a decade or so player.
"I'm about the tape, and anybody that knows me knows that what I defer to is the film. You see it time and time again, all the things we talk about on the film in his skill set and he does it on air in his Pro Day. Every step of the way of this evaluation process he has really left no margin for error in terms of what he can or cannot do. I think he can do everything well."
Luck went through a bevy of post-announcement interviews, and they did nothing to stop the excitement he feels for joining the Colts.
"Yes, I absolutely am (excited to get started)," said Luck. "The most exciting part is being a part of a new locker room and new guys. That's really what I'm stoked about.
"It's very exciting. It's fun to be part of a team that the front office and everybody is committed to winning. I think you need weapons and there are weapons, obviously. It will be a complete honor to be able to throw to hopefully a Hall-of-Famer in Reggie Wayne. The other guys, Austin (Collie) and Donnie (Avery) and whoever else ends up there, and be a part of a team and try and learn from Dwight (Freeney) and Robert (Mathis) and their styles and their leadership. … I'm looking forward to it."
Luck has been peppered with questions over the past weeks about the pressure he could face in being the quarterback who succeeds Peyton Manning, the club's last top overall pick and who played 13 memorable seasons in Indianapolis. Luck will embrace opportunity, play his own game and see what happens.
"I realize you could go crazy trying to just measure yourself to Peyton Manning every day," said Luck. "I don't think that would be a sane way to live. I know his legendary status. He was my hero growing up. (Those are) huge shoes to try and fill, if you're trying to do that.
"I'll just try and put my best foot forward and work hard every day. One day, if I can be mentioned alongside Peyton Manning as one of the quarterback greats, that would be a football dream come true."
Like Manning, Luck had a father, Oliver, who was a stellar collegiate quarterback and who was drafted into the NFL. Oliver Luck starred at West Virginia from 1978-81 before playing with Houston from 1982-86. He then became a club official in Frankfurt of the World League before running NFL Europe for years. Andrew benefited from his father's guidance.
"It's been great. He's been there to sort of answer questions when I had them, or sharing an experience here and there," said Luck of his father. "He's never been overbearing and forced things upon me. He let me figure a lot of stuff out on my own. It's been great having him."
Luck will graduate from Stanford in early June before starting to spend time on a more continual basis in Indianapolis. He is looking forward to committing all his time to the game. It may mean not having to compartmentalize obligations other than the game to the degree he did while studying. He may have to even more, however, given the complexity of the NFL.
"I'm very excited to have that experience without school and really put 100 percent of your mental capacity into football," said Luck. "I don't know if I will have to do it less or more. It could be more with the intricacies of being a professional. It could be less without school stuff. It is something I am looking forward to."