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Friday, March 30, 2012
As Luck would have it

By Rick Reilly
ESPN.com

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck likes to play it cool regarding the upcoming NFL draft. But his work at Stanford's Pro Day on March 22 was very hot.

Andrew Luck could make a sports writer take up bartending. His quotes are drier than rice cakes. His cell phone cost $10. His bike has a flat, so he walks. He is reading a book about the history of concrete.

And yet Luck is The Kid Who Changed NFL History. He's its butterfly effect. Because he exists, the Colts cut loose a legend, Peyton Manning. Because the Colts cut loose Manning, the Denver Broncos Jet-tisonned a cultural icon, Tim Tebow. Because the Broncos were done with Tebow, the Jets launched The Mother of All Backpage Headlines and Mark Sanchez now has a facial twitch. And we're not done yet.

Me: What did you think as you watched Peyton Manning's emotional news conference leaving the Colts?

Andrew Luck: Interesting.

Me: Interesting? That's it? One of the greatest quarterbacks in history was being tossed out of Indianapolis because the Colts want you instead of him!

Luck: Well, IF they draft me.

Yeah, everybody's playing that game lately. IF the Colts take Luck. Colts owner Jim Irsay said this week that the No. 1 pick is "up in the air." "Up in the air" better mean "Luck is on a United flight for Indy as we speak" or Irsay is certifiably nuts, blind and dumb.

I've seen this kid work out. Not since I went to Stanford to watch John Elway do the same thing in 1983 have I seen a kid with an arm like this. It fell off God himself.

Bombs, dinks, outs, ins, skinny posts, fades, Luck lays them all exactly where they need to be. You could hang laundry on his spirals. He does for footballs what Kate Upton does for minis.

In 90 minutes of throwing to pro and college receivers, the ball touched the ground six times, three on drops, once when the equipment guy slipped.

In 90 minutes of throwing to pro and college receivers, the ball touched the ground six times, three on drops, once when the equipment guy slipped. Luck's deliveries drift into receivers' hands like an old man settling into a warm bath.

"This is my day off," says 49ers QB coach Geep Chryst, who is standing next to me with his mouth open. "I'm just here because I love to watch him throw. I've never seen anything like it. The ball comes out of his hand like a helicopter blade. It's like watching Tiger Woods hit balls."

The kid's workouts are so far past what everybody else is doing that Oklahoma QB Landry Jones and Clemson QB Tajh Boyd flew in just to watch and learn.

Me: What are you thinking as you watch the Colts garage-sale almost all of their good players?

Luck: Well, IF they draft me, I guess it means they're serious about rebuilding.

Me: Trying to get a column here.

Luck: I know.

He won't talk about his girlfriend. Won't talk about what the Colts have spoken to him about. Won't talk about his goals for his first season.

Luck: My goal is just to get into an NFL training camp.

Me: Please ... does it bother you that (Baylor's) Robert Griffin III seems to want to make this whole who's-going-to-be-the-No. 1-pick into a competition?

Luck: I guess there IS a certain competition to it. To each his own.

Luck is the kind of guy who is so polite he doesn't even know what kind of jerk he's allowed to be. We go to a restaurant that closes at 2 p.m. It's 1:59. The waiter says sorry. Luck says OK. I hard-whisper, "Tell him who you are!" Luck kicks the floor and says, "Nah." We end up at a cheap burger joint.

Me: Will you take your busted bike and your scraggly beards and all your gray T-shirts to Indy?

Luck: Yeah, I think I'll drive a U-Haul out there from Houston. (pause) You know, IF they draft me.

Lord.

Don't get me wrong. Luck isn't dumb. He was valedictorian at Stratford High School in Houston. When he finishes next semester, he will probably end up with a 3.4 at Stanford in architectural engineering (he'd like to build stadiums). He speaks German (his grandmother is German and he spent time in Germany in his youth.). He is a whiz at Bananagrams (a nerdy word game). He's just pretending to be thick. When you get him off the record, he's funny and quick and incisive. Which is why he comes off like warmed-over spackle in interviews.

Me: Do you think it would've worked if they'd kept Manning and still picked you?

Luck: Uh, well, maybe not. Peyton is serious about getting his practice snaps. So I don't know.

Hey, now we're getting somewhere.

Not only did Luck not think it would work backing up Manning, he didn't want to have Manning's agent. In fact, he didn't want an agent who represented any other players. He picked his uncle, Will Wilson.

Will Wilson is about to get screw-you rich. Luck may be the first player in history to build stadiums and fill them. He's such a solid-gold slam-the-door star-to-be that if the Colts can sign some talent, they could win this season.

He's Doogie Howser with a .357 Magnum for an arm. He's been calling his own plays since he was a sophomore. He completed over 70 percent of his passes the last two years. He's huge. He can run. He's a film freak. He grew up around professional sports, so he's not going to be overwhelmed by any of it. If Irsay doesn't hand him the equivalent of an expansion team, he's going to have the best debut since Guns n' Roses.

"All through college," says Luck's personal quarterbacks coach, George Whitfield, "people would say, 'Andrew Luck is smart. He's consistent. He doesn't make mistakes.' But that sounds like somebody trying to set you up with an ugly girl. The NFL is about to learn that this girl is hot as hell, too. She's gorgeous. All the wraps are about to come off."

Me: You're going to be starting as a rookie with the country watching you. Feeling any pressure?

Luck: Well, IF ...

Me: Don't even.

Luck: OK.