- Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The pressure was there for quarterback Andrew Luck. It was supposed to be there for him.
He was the No. 1 overall pick stepping in for a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, in a state where it's the Colts and every other sport is trying to close the gap.
Colts fans, some still upset over Indianapolis' releasing Peyton Manning, wanted instant results despite Luck stepping into an obvious rebuilding situation.
But for some reason, Luck didn't feel the pressure of having to replace an icon in the organization, the one responsible for making the Colts a fixture in the playoffs and leading them to a Super Bowl title after the 2006 season.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't talk to him about it. Neither did veteran Reggie Wayne. What they saw was a mature 22-year-old player walk into the facility on the west side of Indianapolis with the mind frame that he was ready to try to live up to the standards Manning set during his 14 years with the organization.
"We all know how Andrew is wired and how he is," Pagano said. "We never went down that road. Certainly Andrew respects the guy as much as anybody else, understood whose shoes he was filling and all those type of things, so it wasn't a matter of having any long, lengthy sit-downs about that. Andrew being Andrew, wired the way that he is, obviously to this point has handled that and handled his first year with flying colors."
What Luck has done is slowly start to remove himself from Manning's shadow. That shadow won't be officially gone until he makes the Colts a regular in the playoffs and gets the multiple Super Bowl rings owner Jim Irsay seeks.
But the Colts know they're set at the quarterback position for at least the next decade barring injury, the same way they were when they picked Manning No. 1 overall in 1998.
Luck's too good and too much of a perfectionist to go backward. He doesn't carry himself as if he's only in his second season. You would think Luck has been in the league for several years by watching how he carries himself on the field.
He has proven his ability to win in the first 22 games of his young career. Luck is 15-7 and led the Colts to the playoffs as a rookie.
"I learned that very quickly from the guys that have been around, that it's a culture of winning," Luck said. "It's something that Mr. Irsay I think created, something that Coach Pagano is a believer in. I'm glad to be a part of a team that has a culture of winning and getting to the playoffs."
It helped that Luck didn't step inside the locker room feeling as if he had to put the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He had veterans like Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea and Robert Mathis to help with the transition.
Early on, Luck did more listening than speaking. Now, it's the other way around.
"He's doing it like the first pick of the draft should do," Wayne said. "He's taking it in stride. We as his teammates are doing our best to try to make him look good. He's being Andrew. What you see is what you get. He's handled it quite well and hopefully it gets better from here."
You would think Luck's goal would be to outduel Manning on national television, on the same field Manning led the Colts to three playoff appearances.
That's not what Luck is thinking about. He'll gladly hand the ball off 50 times if that's what it takes to beat the Broncos. He'll also throw it 50 times if required. But just know, it's not about Luck vs. Manning.
It's about the Colts trying to beat the Broncos. Luck wouldn't have it any other way.
"He knows what he has to do," Pagano said. "Everybody knows what they have to do. We've got to do all the fundamental things that good football teams and good football players do."
3hJason Gibbs, Special to ESPN.com
4hJason Gibbs, Special to ESPN.com