Andrew Luck jogged onto the field in an Indianapolis Colts uniform for the first time in his career with 9:34 remaining in the first quarter of Sunday's preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. The rookie quarterback, so hyped, was finally ready to play. After an agonizingly long offseason filled with much change and turmoil, the 2012 season had started, and the future of the franchise was ready to take his first career snap.
The play was nothing spectacular to start with - the Colts lined up with only one wide receiver, Reggie Wayne, out wide to the left. Donald Brown let a pass rusher run right by him right after the play started, and Luck was already under pressure. But the play was a dump off pass to Brown, who did the rest and took Andrew Luck's first career pass 63 yards for a touchdown. In fact, the comparisons to Peyton Manning, the quarterback whom Luck is tasked with replacing, just keep coming. Manning's first preseason pass also was a short throw that went for a touchdown (it was to Marvin Harrison).
But Manning is long gone today. And the Colts have another great one.
I attended the game at Lucas Oil Stadium, and I was very impressed with Colts fans, both in the stadium and out. All day, current Colts jerseys vastly outnumbered former Colts jerseys. I saw a lot of Austin Collie, Dwight Freeney, and of course a lot of Andrew Luck jerseys. Yeah, there were quite a few Manning jerseys (which will never go out of style so long as they are the blue and white and not that ugly orange), but Luck's number 12 greatly outnumbered Manning's 18 jersey.
The fans were great and genuinely excited about the future. I mean, of course those paying for a preseason game are going to be die hard Colts fans, but they were ecstatic. After that touchdown by Luck, you would think nothing happened this offseason.
You wouldn't know that this is a franchise who fired their general manager, head coach, and got rid of the most popular player in their entire history. You would not think that this was a team on which two thirds of the roster was new. You wouldn't think that this fan base was criticised for being fair weather. Again, the fans at the stadium for a preseason game are not the ones the criticism was directed towards, but they were excited nonetheless.
After the game, stopping to eat a little outside of Indianapolis, people were asking questions about how Luck did. They were excitedfor him to be their quarterback. This wasn't the fan base I had been hearing about this offseason, was it?
Look, Indianapolis never will forget Peyton Manning. Never. But by the time Andrew Luck is done, we may not be able to forget him either.
Again, high praise for a guy who just played one half of a preseason game against the Rams. But he looked really good. The Colts looked really good.
But in my opinion, perhaps the most important thing to come of this game was to get the fan base united behind them. Sunday, there was not much talk of Peyton Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium, other than the comparisons between him and Luck. And that is where the Colts won even bigger than they did on the field - with the fans.
Because now, they truely believe they have someone special. And they do.
Forget building towards the future, the future is now. This kid Luck is the future. And the future is bright for the Indianapolis Colts and their great fan base.