Like his predecessor, Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck is taking an active role in the local community.
Luck spent part of Tuesday morning speaking to a group of Indianapolis students as part of Quaker's NFL Play 60 campaign. He spoke to the kids about the importance of staying active and eating healthy and discussed different activities and meals - which includes Luck's favorite breakfast, Quaker Oatmeal - to help the kids meet their goals.
Following the talk, Luck and the kids took part in some football drills, mainly centered around throwing and catching the ball. Luck demonstrated the proper way to throw the ball: he explained the purpose of the laces, the proper way to grip the ball, and the proper footwork associated with a good throw. He also helped the kids with catching the ball and was clearly more in his element during these drills than at any other time during the event.
Following the drills, Luck spent a few minutes with the local TV and print media, answering a couple of questions - mostly about the Play 60 event - before enjoying some photo opportunities with some of the kids.
Listening to Luck speak, observing him as he interacted with these kids, was an educational, telling experience. We've been told by the experts and journalists that Luck is the second coming of Peyton Manning: in the locker room, in the huddle, and while speaking to reporters. And it's true, watching him during games, listening to his comments to reporters, it is hard to not notice the similarities. On this day, however, it was clear that Luck is a far cry from the polished, media-savvy, ready-for-anything personality that Manning had become during his time in Indianapolis.
While speaking to the children about their diet and exercise, he asked the kids to share some of their sports heroes. One of the first kids to respond answered, "the Patriots quarterback." Clearly, it was an audible for which Luck had not planned. Caught off guard, his chuckle and slight pause, before he reminded the kid that he was in Indianapolis, were the first of many glimpses of Luck's "untainted", unpolished nature.
It was on display again during the drills, when Luck, describing the best way to grip a football, likened it to holding a girl's hand, before pausing, and wondering aloud - as much to himself as the kids - "oh, do you guys even hold hands, yet?" But it was also during these drills that Luck was at his best: he was comfortable, engaging, and encouraging as he worked with the kids, and he looked every bit the part of a long-time coach.
The last, and perhaps best, glimpse of Luck's innocence came during the post-event interview period.
When I first embarked on my journey from Canada to Indianapolis, I was expecting a one-on-one interview, and planned on asking Luck a few (okay, nine) brilliant (take my word for it) football questions. Things don't always go as planned, however, and scheduling constraints turned our one-on-one into a normal reporter scrum (my first ever!).
Once I finally got over my own nerve issues - I was probably the only person at the event more nervous than Luck - I fired off my question. It wasn't one I had spent countless hours wording and rewording, but, at that point in time, after observing his words, his actions, his body movements that morning, it felt like perhaps the most relevant: "Is it harder to prepare for a room full of kids or an NFL defense?"
He thought and then responded, "Uh, I think the room full of kids! You gotta...you gotta keep their attention for awhile and, you know, it's good, though." I was as appreciative of his words as I was the way he spoke them: hands in his pockets, shuffling his feet. He wasn't paying lip service to the question, it was an honest, sincere response.
After the event, my colleague at Colts Authority (and also from Bleacher Report) Nate Dunlevy and I stood and watched Luck interact with the kids. We talked with each other about his innocence, his untainted way of dealing with the event, the kids. And then we were quickly reminded of the last quarterback of the Colts, and his once-thoughtful, sincere answers. We agreed, while this version of Andrew Luck was a breath of fresh air, it would likely not last long beyond the Colts first playoff loss.
Protection problems? This offensive line may have a few, let's hope that Luck can take a page out of the old quarterback's playbook before talking too honestly about them.
Actually, I find Luck to be more like Eli than Peyton.
Which I think is probably a very good thing. Just like Eli has done an incredible job of being his own person as the "little" brother of Peyton, I think Luck's temprement will enable him to follow Peyton with the Colts as well as anyone could.
I close my eyes, and gave him a little bit of a stronger southern accent, and it was hearing Peyton speak again.
Cannot love Luck more right now (that could change if the monsters get him on sunday). Seems like just a cool dude, and fame hasn't changed him yet. I don't mean like ruin him, but we saw Peyton get a little more guarded as the years went on just because he had to. It'll happen eventually for Luck, but for now he just seems so down-to-earth.