INDIANAPOLIS – Andrew Luck has always tried to deflect the spotlight.
As a highly recruited high school quarterback in Houston and as a Heisman finalist at Stanford, he was often the reluctant center of media attention. Even now, he tries to avoid the sideshows that come with being an elite quarterback.
He’s selective about endorsement deals. He’s been known to ride a bike to pick up takeout food just for the workout. He goes to Europe in the offseason so he can go without being recognized.
“He’s so, so humble. He’s always been that way,” said Eliot Allen, Luck’s coach at Stratford High School in Houston. “My basic job was, one, to stay out of the way and, two, to steer him clear of the media. I just think he was really uncomfortable because he was worried what his teammates would think about him talking to the media. He didn’t want to be the guy up front.”
Luck can’t avoid being up front this week, with Sunday night’s season opener against former Colts star Peyton Manning looming
In 2010, the Heisman Trophy runner-up was billed as the most polished college quarterback since Manning graduated in 1998, but he gave up the big bucks to return to Stanford.
As rookies, Luck and Robert Griffin III, the second-overall pick, both led their teams to the playoffs. Griffin bested Luck to earn the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Last year, it looked like Luck would surpass Griffin — who struggled to return from a knee injury — and become the league’s top young quarterback. Luck beat Manning’s Broncos and eventual Super Bowl champion Seattle, won the AFC South title and orchestrated the second-biggest playoff comeback in NFL history. But the championship went to 2012 draft classmate Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
Luck says he never worries about who is seen as the best quarterback. Instead, he focuses on self-improvement.
While many players dreamed of striking it rich in pro football, Luck spent part of his childhood in Europe developing an affinity for soccer and travel. He learned lessons watching his father — a former NFL quarterback who held jobs in the World League of American Football and NFL Europe — maneuver through reporters’ questions.
Luck’s father isn’t surprised that his son doesn’t quite fit the mold of the typical NFL star.
“He’s always been a pretty curious kid,” Oliver Luck said. “We didn’t really know how long we were going to be in Europe when we went over there, so we tried to take advantage of the weekends to go to Paris or the Alps or whatever, so they got to see a lot. A lot of guys fly around the world in the offseason because they have the resources to do it. In his case, I think he really enjoys Europe.”
His approach to stardom has also been different. Instead of filming commercials for extra money during his rookie season, Luck immersed himself in film study and became a steadying influence on one of the NFL’s youngest teams.
Then, in Year 2, Luck cut down on his mistakes, and like Manning, won a division title.
But after throwing seven interceptions in two playoff games, Luck changed the offseason script.
“I think I handled the business side of things a little better, the endorsements and this and that and what it all entails,” he said. “With time, you understand how to approach those things a little better.”