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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Luck, Manning ready to renew ties

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As quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning prepare to meet as opponents for the first time Sunday, they're trying to avoid the inevitable questions and comparisons.

Not a chance.

Their fathers both played in the NFL. They both left their home states to attend college. Both were Heisman Trophy runners-up, and both were chosen No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts.

They even wound up as Pro Bowl teammates in January.

Colts owner Jim Irsay has been embroiled in controversy this week after he told USA Today Sports that Manning endorsed the team's decision to move on from him and pick Luck and pointed out that, despite Manning's success with the team, the Colts had just one Super Bowl title during his time with the franchise.

Denver Broncos coach John Fox called the comments a "cheap shot" in a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview, and Manning declined to comment when asked about Irsay, who on Wednesday said his words were taken out of context.

As a result, Luck seemingly has been pushed to the background. On Wednesday, he was asked about Manning's legacy in Indianapolis.

"I never viewed it as replacing Peyton. I just viewed it as an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL," Luck said. "It just so happens one of the greats of all time was here before me."

One thing both quarterbacks made clear Wednesday is that they are friends, not rivals. Their families have been acquainted since 1982, when Luck's father, Oliver, was the backup to Manning's father, Archie, with the Houston Oilers.

But it wasn't until eighth grade that the younger Luck got his first real immersion into the relationship -- as an invitee to the annual Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana. It didn't take Luck long to strike up friendships and find a few new high-profile fans.

"That was very fun and a great way to meet Peyton and Eli and talk to Archie," Luck said. "There was that link between our fathers. [Peyton] has always been very helpful and kind. They're such a classy family. It's fun to know them."

Luck, 24, is young enough to still consider Manning a role model. And at 37, Manning is old enough to consider himself a fan of the guy who may one day break all those records he set in Indy.

"He's a heck of a quarterback," Manning told reporters on a conference call. "He sure did have a great first season and certainly used that first season to his advantage, and he's off to a heck of a start this year."

In Manning's record-breaking rookie season, he finished 326-of-575 passing for 3,739 yards with 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Manning went 3-13 as a rookie in 1998 and 13-3 in his second season, the biggest one-season improvement in league history.

As a rookie, Luck went 339-of-627 for 4,374 yards with 23 TDs and 18 interceptions, setting NFL rookie records for yards, attempts and 300-yard games (six), finishing second all-time among rookies in completions and third in TD passes and leaving the rookie record for interceptions in Manning's hands.

Last season, Luck took over a team that went 2-14 without an injured Manning in 2011 and led the Colts to the playoffs with an 11-5 mark, the second-biggest turnaround in league history.

This season, it's Manning who's off to the quicker start.

Denver (6-0) is one of two remaining unbeaten teams, and with Manning throwing a league-record 22 TD passes and only two interceptions through six games, the Broncos are on pace to shatter the NFL's scoring record for a season (New England, 589 points in 2007). The Colts (4-2), meanwhile, lead the AFC South.

While Luck insists there is no pressure to keep up with Manning on Sunday night, he would like to emulate what Manning did in Indy.

"He is a great role model for guys my age growing up, younger players, just how to play the position, how to handle yourself on and off the field," Luck said. "We always really enjoyed watching all the Mannings play. I definitely hold him in the highest respect."

Luck said he and Manning have talked occasionally since he was drafted -- but not this week, and not about what he needs to do to replace Indy's former star quarterback.

"He didn't seek any, didn't ask any questions looking into that specific topic," Manning said. "As far as playing in Indianapolis for those fans, I can promise you he's a lucky guy, no pun intended."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.