INDIANAPOLIS –Through nine games, quarterback Andrew Luck's leadership qualities have been on obvious display.
His passing exploits – 2,631 yards and 10 touchdowns – and rushing totals – 159 yards and five touchdowns – have thrilled Colts fans.
Some other competitive instincts have been on display, too. One was more subliminal against Green Bay, though it probably saved the game. Another was last night in Jacksonville when he aggressively wanted an interception return to end.
The first play occurred in the second quarter of the October 7 game with the Packers. Luck was sacked and fumbled, but he got up and raced across the field to bat the loose ball out of bounds. His determination kept Green Bay from recovering the fumble.
That play occurred two snaps after Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry leveled Luck (a hit that eventually drew a fine), and Luck made the hustle play as his team was down, 14-0. A Green Bay recovery likely would doom the afternoon. The Colts recovered in the second half to earn a 30-27 comeback win.
Bruce Arians, coaching in his first game for Head Coach Chuck Pagano, cited that effort as the play of the game. Without it, circumstances that followed likely would have been moot.
Last night at Jacksonville just after the first half two-minute warning, Luck was intercepted by Dawan Landry. Landry returned the takeaway 21 yards from his eight-yard line before lateraling to safety Chris Prosinski.
Prosinski was able to advance the ball two more yards. Landry was not able to advance any further. He was leveled by Luck to help stop the play.
Indianapolis was leading at the time, 17-0. The turnover probably kept the Colts from increasing their lead at the break. The Jaguars used the play to get a field goal just before the half, but the Colts recovered from the moment to march to a 27-10 win.
Arians has spent countless hours with Luck in helping sculpt a young career. He knows the competitive fire that burns in the quarterback.
"I've seen it before in college," said Arians of Luck's aggressive, battling nature in competition. "I was afraid he was going to try and take his head off. He gets ticked off when he throws those interceptions, I'll be honest with you."
General Manager Ryan Grigson scouted Luck in great detail and recalled earlier this year how he saw Luck respond to such a moment while at Stanford.
"Nothing surprises me with Andrew. I've seen him throw an interception and bee-line it, then ear-hole the guy making the interception and darn near put him in the stands with the hit," said Grigson of Luck's collegiate days. "Andrew is a big guy who can run, who is a heck of a lot tougher than people even know. I think it's becoming more evident with each week he plays in the league.
"He's one tough sucker who is not only very talented, but his will to win is what separates him from others."
Luck feels a duty to lead his team in every way, and that moment in Jacksonville was another instance.
"Not much to think about I guess. It was football instincts," said Luck. "You see the guy on the other team with the ball, you're going to try and tackle him. If I'm going to be the one who turns the ball over, I'm going to at least try and stop the guy."
Luck ran for two scores to set the club franchise seasonal record for a quarterback with five for the year. His 2,631 passing yards are the most ever for a rookie quarterback through nine games.
Luck is establishing himself among the most prominent rookie quarterbacks ever with six starting wins.
He is taking his shots, while taking shots. Two times at Jacksonville, defenders were flagged for hits against Luck. One was a roughing the passer call, and the other was an unnecessary roughness flag as Luck was sliding at the end of a play.
Four other times this year, opponents have been fined for hits on the quarterback. Luck has shown the same competitive fire when plays have unfolded to make him a defender. Opponents likely note the spunk and hustle he brings in every game circumstance.