Manning told Colts to draft Luck

Even Peyton Manning felt that the Indianapolis Colts could not pass up the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck.

Manning, a four-time NFL MVP who led Indianapolis to 11 postseason appearances and a Super Bowl championship, advised the Colts to select Luck with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, team owner Jim Irsay said during an interview with USA Today Sports.

At the time of the conversation, Manning was recovering from fusion surgery on his neck and the Colts were attempting to rebound from a 2-14 season.

"[Manning] said, 'You've got to take Andrew,' " Irsay told USA Today Sports. " 'You have to. You're crazy if you don't.' "

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy said during a conference call Tuesday that Irsay's decision wasn't a "no-brainer."

"I can almost guarantee you if [Irsay] knew [Manning] was going to be healthy like this, and playing this kind of football, in hindsight, I don't think he would have done it," Dungy said during the conference call, according to The Indianapolis Star.

"He knew all the factors. ... Jim also had a great deal of loyalty," Dungy said. "Jim was a young boy when his dad [Robert] traded Johnny Unitas, so he knew the ramifications of those types of decisions. And he also knew how much Peyton had done for the city of Indianapolis, for that franchise."

The Colts eventually did take Luck with the top pick after releasing Manning, who has continued to flourish since signing with the Denver Broncos.

The Colts will host the undefeated Broncos on Sunday night in Manning's heavily anticipated return to Indianapolis. The Colts (4-2) own sole possession of first place in the AFC South, and Denver (6-0) is tied with the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West.

After passing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns last season, Manning is on a record-setting pace this year. The 37-year-old leads the NFL with 2,179 passing yards and 22 touchdowns -- a league record through six games.

Indianapolis also has thrived in the post-Manning era thanks to the 24-year-old Luck, who led the Colts to a surprising 11-5 record and an AFC wild-card berth last season.

Luck passed for an NFL rookie-record 4,374 yards as the Colts matched the second-biggest single-season turnaround in NFL history with their nine-win improvement.

"I think it's perfect," Irsay told USA Today Sports. "What's happened is what Peyton and I hoped would happen. The desire was for him to get well and get to a team that has a chance to win another Super Bowl before his career ended.

"And our desire was to be able to transition to Andrew. To be so good so soon is stunning."