INDIANAPOLIS –Andrew Luck is the type of player who has excelled throughout his career, meeting challenges as the sport offered different levels of competition.
Luck, the first pick in the draft, knocked the ball out of the park at Stratford High School in Houston and at Stanford.
All eyes have been on him since joining Indianapolis, and he is a little less than five full days away from lining up in Chicago in the regular season opener.
Luck has been preparing already for the moment that is approaching, and today is the first NFL regular season Wednesday of his career. As he faced a media swarm at his locker today at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Luck talked about being ready for his first league action.
"Excited," said Luck about his emotions. "(We're) going up against a great team, a great defense. It will be a great measuring stick. I think for us, (we're) just very excited to get it going."
Luck hit on 41-of-66 preseason passes for an AFC-leading 522 yards, with three touchdowns. It was experience on the professional level to be sure, and that exposure is what helps make him think he is just about as ready as possible for Sunday.
"Having the preseason games and sort of getting back there and feeling live (action) and standing in the pocket, going through that was helpful," said Luck. "(I'm) trying to think about comparing it to a freshman year in college where you don't get to scrimmage anybody else, you don't get to play anybody else. I'll take these next couple of practices very seriously. I think that will help prepare, and hopefully I'll be ready to go."
Luck remembers not sleeping quite so well before his first collegiate start. He realized he had not been hit by a defense in more than a year at that point. Still, he connected on 11-of-23 passes for 193 yards, with one touchdown – a 63-yarder in the second quarter against Washington State that stood as Stanford's longest scrimmage play of the year.
Ironically, Luck hit Donald Brown on a 63-yard touchdown pass in the preseason opener against St. Louis. It came on the first pass of his career. While he thinks there may be some parallels that he felt in 2009, he believes he is equipped better now.
"I'm sure there will be some similarities. I do think it's a little different," said Luck. "I think I'm a little more mature. I think I know this offense a little better than when I was a freshman at Stanford.
"I think the preseason games really helped out a lot. Obviously, the speed is going to pick up in the regular season. It is a whole game. It's for real in the win-loss column. I think it (preseason) was a nice sort of stepping stone."
Luck is taking that next step in his career. Prior to the Combine this year, he worked for three weeks with Tom Moore, the club's former offensive coordinator. Moore saw all he needed to know about Luck mentally, and he is high on his physical ability.
"He's an excellent athlete. He has a strong arm. There are three things you are looking for in a quarterback," said Moore. "You're looking for arm strength, which he has. You're looking for a quarterback to anticipate throws, which he does. You're always looking for accuracy. He has that, too. Andrew has all those things going for him. He just needs to continue doing what he does. He's the real deal."
Moore's assessment matches what everyone says about the rookie signal-caller. Still, he is taking his first steps into action, and Head Coach Chuck Pagano knows a shrewd opponent will be lying in wait.
"I think going in you'd (an opposing head coach) like to say, 'Okay, (let's) try to make him work. Make him execute.' See how far along he is in his learning curve," said Pagano. "They have enough on tape to where they have to make that decision as far as looking at Andrew and where he's at compared to most rookies.
"I think generally speaking you could say, 'Okay, look we have us a rookie quarterback this week. Let's get after him.' Some teams, that's their MO. Some teams, that's not their MO. They choose to rush with four guys, that's fine. If they want to bring everybody, we'll be prepared for it."
Luck will be facing a 4-3 Bears defense that returns three of four defensive Pro Bowlers, including linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, along with cornerback Charles Tillman. Chicago ranked 17th in NFL defense last year, fifth against the rush and 28th against the pass. Urlacher is fighting an injury, but this is opening Sunday. The unit also sports end Julius Peppers, one of 27 players with 100 career sacks.
Luck hopes there will not be lumps that he and the offense endure in steps of maturation.
"I hope we don't have to. I hope I don't have to take those lumps, but I think it's part of growing up," said Luck. "Part of being a rookie is, I guess, coming up to situations that you haven't seen before. I think I have great guys to rely on all around this locker room. I'll try and get to the basics when things like that happen and just run the offense."
Pagano will be making his first appearance as an NFL head coach on Sunday. He is not immune to whatever he will feel, too, and he is sure Luck will experience jitters associated with the game.
"There will be butterflies. I'm sure he will be anxious, just like everybody else," said Pagano. "(Baltimore linebacker Terrell) Suggs threw up before every game 10 years in. That's just how competitive guys are. Once he gets out there and he gets rolling, it will be business as usual for 12 (Luck)."