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Andrew Luck conquers all!



In an interesting role reversal, Andrew Luck was open.

The subjects ranged from his newly developed taste for Indiana's multi-colored tomatoes to his distaste for being repeatedly asked about his anachronistic flip phone, his absence from social media, and the status of his beard.

He admitted an "unconditional love" for U.S. soccer in general, and a bit of fannish infatuation with star player Clint Dempsey in particular. He explained why it is important to handle himself meticulously well in public, both as a leader and example, while acknowledging a very real disinterest in how he is portrayed in the media.

There was, of course, some American football discussion, because that is what he does better than most anyone else in the world, the reason for his place in the spotlight.

But it was after he left that the real bombshell dropped.

This was not some well-orchestrated plan by the Colts public relations staff to help craft the image of their peerless young quarterback.

This engaging, revealing, interesting and completely informal session with the media was strictly Luck's idea.

You knew he was bigger, stronger, faster and smarter than, well, just about everybody. You knew he had a preternatural maturity. You knew he was already one of the best quarterbacks, one of the best football players, in the NFL.

What you did not know: he enjoys being Clark Kent almost as much as Superman.

No wonder this man is almost always smiling.

Do not be deceived, however, by the appearance, because it masks what really drives Luck, the one trait that makes all the others possible.

In his uncommonly interesting life, Luck has made room for many things that might surprise those who know him only as a football star, but there is one notable exclusion: failure.

"He's just really determined at all times, whether it's playing a football game or playing Settlers of Catan or playing trivia night somewhere," said Matt Hasselbeck, a 16-year veteran serving as Luck's backup. "He's just really a determined, determined person."

  • Phil Taylor

Luck seemingly always has been a football star, but that's where reality begins to separate from the myth. Though he does live life under a microscope while perched on a pedestal, understand: he has found the balance that makes it possible to live that life as fully as time allows.

He regularly plays Settlers of Catan, a board game in which the players acquire resources in order to build roads, settlements, cities – the fundamentals of civilization. He also enjoys Bananagrams, a word game. He thought long and hard about attending Gencon this year but the team's schedule conflicted.

His first sporting love was soccer, primarily because he spent his formative years in Europe. He has a degree in architectural design from Stanford, having been graduated with a 3.48 GPA. He hopes one day to design an environmentally friendly stadium.

Had he never picked up a football, you get the distinct impression Luck would've had no difficulty finding something challenging, enriching and ultimately rewarding to conquer.

Luckily for the Colts, fútbol in Europe gave way to football in Texas and the rest, quite literally, has been historic.

In his chosen profession, Luck has already has thrown for more yards than any quarterback in NFL history in his first two seasons (8,196). Of the Colts' 22 wins in his brief tenure, exactly half have come as the result of comebacks in the fourth quarter and/or overtime. That's another record for the first two seasons of a quarterback's career.

In each of those seasons, he guided the Colts into the playoffs. They lost in the wild-card round his rookie year, and then advanced to the divisional round before falling to the Patriots a year ago.

This season, which begins Sept. 7 in Denver against Peyton Manning's Broncos, has brought realistic discussions of a trip to the Super Bowl, and not just among what the old curmudgeon Bill Polian used to dismiss as pundits and mavens.

This is the owner talking:

"You know when you have a great player like Andrew at quarterback that everyone's going to set the bar high for achievement," Jim Irsay said. "So we won the division, we won a playoff game, and now it's just a question of trying to get deeper. ... I really think the mindset and the atmosphere and the desire to win a championship is there."

  • Phil Taylor

Griff Whalen was Luck's roommate for three years at Stanford and is entering his third season as his teammate with the Colts.

So, Griff, what's Andrew really like?

Pause. Exhale. Hands on hips. Furrowed brow.

"Uh ... I don't know," he said. "Football isn't his whole life, there's a lot of other stuff that interests him. He loves to travel and read and he's always trying to learn new stuff. He's very curious, I guess I would say."

Pep Hamilton worked with Luck for two seasons as a coach at Stanford. The two are so closely associated, in fact, Hamilton was the first assistant to fill the endowed position, "Andrew Luck Director of Offense" with the Cardinal. Most other places, they just call it offensive coordinator. That's been Hamilton's job title the past two seasons in Indianapolis.

So, Pep, what's Andrew really like?

Pause. Stare, not blank but calculating.

"He is well-rounded," Hamilton said. "He has a life outside of football. He has other interests, worldly interests and of course his upbringing, the time that he spent as a youth in Europe as well as just the exposure that he's had to a lot of different cultures. He's well-traveled. He's a very interesting young man. He can sit and have a conversation with pretty much anybody about anything."

And not just in English.

Luck's father Oliver – a magna cum laude graduate of West Virginia University, Phi Beta Kappa and member of the Academic All-America Hall of Fame – also is a man of many interests beyond football.

Oliver spent five NFL seasons with the Houston Oilers, where popular veteran quarterback Archie Manning was in the final phase of his career. Among the off-field tasks assigned to the rookie Luck in 1982 was looking after Manning's sons, Cooper and Peyton.

Little did anyone know at the time the link that would form between the Lucks and Mannings.

Andrew was born in Washington, D.C., while Oliver and wife Kathy were working as attorneys, but spent his formative years in Europe, where Oliver served as general manager of the Frankfurt Galaxy as the World League of American Football was launching. It would evolve into NFL Europe, with Oliver filling the role of league president.

It was during these years that young Andrew was exposed to an entirely new world, traveling the continent with his father and developing a passion for a variety of aspects of European culture, including languages, architecture, cuisine – and, of course, soccer. All three of his siblings, sisters Mary Ellen and Emily and brother Addison, were born in Europe.


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