INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday, Andrew Luck will walk with his Stanford classmates at graduation ceremonies. It will mark the end of a storied career both academically and athletically.
On Tuesday in Indianapolis, he took his first steps with the entire Colts roster in working twice on the fields at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center in mini-camp.
He, his teammates and coaches and all Colts fans hope it is a continuation of success that has marked his football life to this point.
After having worked with Luck from May 4-6 in rookie camp and then sending him back to the Bay Area with a heavy dose of information, Head Coach Chuck Pagano liked what he saw from Luck on his first full day of a new career.
"There were no mental errors. The same thing we saw in rookie mini-camp with what we gave him until now coming back, he hasn't missed a beat," said Pagano. "He's a really bright kid. He's really focused. He's really driven.
"Obviously, the success he's had to this point there's a reason behind all that, and it's because football is very, very important to him. He's a gym rat-type guy. Everything he's had, he's stayed all over (it). We're very pleased where he's at."
Pagano and the staff anticipated Luck's return after taking his finals last week and before his upcoming graduation-day paces. They could not intrude on his professional process until classroom work was completed.
"With the rules as they are, we weren't able to (coach him)," said Pagano. "I could call and check on him and make sure his health was good, that classes were going well and those types of things. From a football standpoint, what he took back with him is what he studied. That's the way we went about things. … Obviously, having the whole team here is fabulous."
Luck attended classes three days a week to put the final touches on his degree in architecture. While doing so, he retained what he learned in his brief time in Indianapolis.
"Like we've said all along, the guy is off the charts as far as football IQ," said Pagano. "We had a little session (Monday) with the rookies, which is legal under the guidelines of the new CBA, and he hasn't missed a beat."
As for Luck, he was able to structure his time until he could return to start the next part of his life.
"I split my days (at Stanford since then) in half during the week, football in the morning and school in the afternoon," said Luck. "I had a fair amount of work to do over the last couple of weeks.
"I would wake up and have serious lack of motivation to go to class (laughs). Then, I'd go work out and sort of do football stuff until lunch. I had afternoon classes, so I'd go to class in the afternoon, do whatever needed to be done for class, hang out and then go to bed."
Luck was one of three Colts rookies who could not participate in 10 organized team activity practices while finishing academic work. He believes he juggled the mental and physical demands of learning the Indianapolis offense.
"I think I've managed to learn the playbook a bit and get a good start on it. I don't think I'm starting at zero on the scale," said Luck. "I think I built somewhat of a base up to this point. Physically, I tried to work out and tried to make sure I'm ready to handle a bunch of reps.
"I think I've accomplished a fair amount. I wish I could have been here, but that wasn't the case. I just have to fight through that road block."
One way NFL teams introduce a culture to new players is by creating as much routine as possible. The orientation is a process no matter how accomplished a young player may be, but Luck thinks he will be attuned to that process quickly.
"I think a couple of days. To be honest with you, the routine they set for you on day one when you come in is ingrained in you by day two," said Luck. "To have that routine is great. My mind definitely has been in Indianapolis the past couple of months. I've been trying to approach everything with a professional manner and attitude. The rookie mini-camp really helped to understand how it was going to be. By the end of today or tomorrow, I'll have a pretty good idea how to proceed through the summer into training camp."
One knee-jerk reaction to missed time in work would be to rush into things upon returning. The logical approach is the one taken by Pagano, that being to act naturally, rely on past practice and get by on basic instincts. There is no need to push harder.
"Come in, be yourself and do your job. Do what you do, and do what you have been doing for your whole life. Don't press," said Pagano of how Luck should approach his return and how the staff will emphasize the coming time. "If I'm playing baseball and I'm in a slump, the worst thing I can do is (to) press and swing harder. Just come in and do your job and be yourself, it will take care of itself naturally."
Luck appreciates the position he is in and wants to act rationally as well. There is a sense of urgency, but it is best not to over-react.
"It's an interesting spot. You don't want to pressure, over-press or burn out on anything," said Luck. "You have to play catch-up a little bit and make sure you get those reps before training camp starts and before preseason hits you. It's an interesting process getting to that point with all the receivers, not just Reggie (Wayne) and (Austin) Collie but with everybody who will be in there."
Day one of mini-camp brought the inevitable question Luck will face and address many times in the coming weeks – how it will be to succeed Peyton Manning. The question caught him off guard by no means. He will work his plan and aim to achieve self-set goals.
"I don't live in a cave, so I understand what's gone on. I probably was the biggest Peyton Manning fan growing up. Maybe I'm a little naïve, but I don't get caught up in it," said Luck. "I have somewhat high expectations for myself. I think they may be a little higher than other people have for me. At the end of the day, I'm going to listen to my teammates, my coaches, my family and very close friends, not to discount or discredit anybody else's opinion. You can go crazy trying to listen to everyone out there. I'm trying to approach my job with a good attitude and try to get better."