INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck is getting down to business in Hawaii.
He attends quarterback meetings in the morning, practices in the afternoon and tries to glean as much information as possible from some of football’s biggest stars. For the record-setting rookie, it’s just another football week.
“That’s Andrew being Andrew, I think that’s the only way he knows how to roll,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said with a chuckle Thursday.
To Luck, the Pro Bowl is about more than just fun in the sun.
Rookie quarterbacks rarely get the opportunity to play in Hawaii, and Luck only made it because New England’s Tom Brady pulled out of the game Monday with an injury. Luck, the first alternate for the AFC, was hoping for the call and was staying near his alma mater, Stanford, so he would have a shorter flight to Honolulu.
Now that he’s in Honolulu, Luck is working again with Peyton Manning, an old friend who gave him a chance to be both a student and a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy. Together, the Colts’ past and present franchise quarterbacks, both perfectionists by trade, are trying to take the lead in making sure the Pro Bowl is taken seriously.
“I guess some folks weren’t happy with the play last year, but I think guys will take it upon themselves to keep this game going for many years to come and play hard,” Luck said after listening to Manning’s speech. “I think it is part of our obligation to make sure we play hard and this game continues.”
The hard-working Luck does have other plans this week.
Two of his Colts’ teammates, outside linebacker Robert Mathis and receiver Reggie Wayne, also are expected to play for the AFC on Sunday. Wayne has brought along the Colts’ receiving corps for the trip and Luck picked up the tab for third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish, the last pick in April’s draft. Backup Drew Stanton declined to go, Luck said, because he wanted to stay home with his newborn son.
“Obviously you’re going to have fun, you’re in Hawaii, that’s what it’s about,” Luck told Indianapolis reporters during a conference call Thursday. “But anytime you’re around so many great football players, it’s not an obligation, but close to it, to try to get better at football.”
Indy took Luck with the first pick in April and he delivered a season to remember.
He broke the NFL’s rookie records for attempts, yards passing and 300-yard games, falling just short of setting new marks in completions and touchdown passes. He broke the franchise’s single-season record for TDs rushing by a quarterback. He tied the league record for game-winning drives in the fourth quarter (seven), won a league-high nine one-possession games and was the conductor of one of the greatest turnarounds in league history. Indy went from 2-14 to 11-5 and earned its first playoff berth without Manning since 1996.
In 2013, nobody expects more than Luck, who will be working with a new offensive coordinator after Bruce Arians took the head coaching job in Arizona. Fortunately, for Luck, he’ll have a familiar face calling the plays in Pep Hamilton, who was Stanford’s offensive coordinator.
Luck expects the Colts to run more of a West Coast offense that relies primarily on short passes than the vertical game Arians’ preferred, though he does expect to see both blended into the play calls next season.
“Obviously, it stinks that Bruce had to leave but we’re all incredibly happy for him. I don’t know if anyone deserves a head coaching job as much as he does. But I’m very, very happy for Pep to be here now,” Luck said. “There are a lot of great things that B.A. did that hopefully we’ll keep around and continue to do and then to add what Pep knows how to teach, what he can coach. So it will be a great offense.”
And for the first time, Luck will have a full offseason program to work with coaches and teammates.
NFL rules prohibited Luck from doing any work at the team complex last year, other than the Colts’ three-day rookie minicamp, until Stanford’s semester ended in mid-June.
This year, he won’t have those kinds of restrictions and Luck believes that will help him become an even better quarterback next season.
“Folks say you make your biggest strides between year one and year two so this offseason, for personal development, I think it’ll be very big,” he said. “Then as a team, we’ve got to get better and figure out a way to hopefully win the big one next year.”
But until then, Luck has one more game -- and a few more practices -- to keep him busy.
“To me it’s an honor to be here, to be around your peers and the guys who are doing incredible things in this league. It’s definitely something important,” he said. “I’ve never been to Hawaii before so it’s a chance to go to Hawaii and have a great time.”