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Stanford in the NFL: Catching up with Andrew Luck

Before leading the Indianapolis Colts to three-straight playoff appearances, Andrew Luck '12 (above) brought Stanford football back to national relevance and was a two-time Heisman Trophy runner up. (MICHAEL LIU/The Stanford Daily)

If Andrew Luck can do one thing, it’s to take a program from havoc and build it up to become something special.

That’s what he did at Stanford, leading the Cardinal, which during the two seasons prior to his arrival had gone 5-7 and 4-8, to the Sun, Orange and Fiesta Bowls. After being picked No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL draft, he brought the 2-14 Colts back to its past glories of the Peyton Manning era, as Luck has led the team to three straight playoffs in his first three years in the NFL and has the Colts being called favorites to appear in — and perhaps win — the Super Bowl.

A major part of the reason the Colts have been featured in conversations about potential Super Bowl teams is Luck’s continued development as a passer. His completion percentage and passer rating have improved each year in the NFL, and last season he demolished his career-high in passing touchdowns with 40, 17 more than his previous high.

“I think you learn stuff every year and that obviously goes without saying, but it includes operationally and how you operate in training camp, how you take care of your body, your slate schedule,”  Luck said about his growth. “I’d like to think I’m a little more efficient with my time going into my fourth year and what we’re studying and the plan we have.”

Not only do the Colts return a majority of last year’s AFC runner-up, but the offense added veteran offensive weapons in running back Frank Gore and wide receiver Andre Johnson in free agency and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the NFL Draft. Along with Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, these new additions form the core of what certainly looks like the best offense Luck has ever had.

“It’s a bunch of great players,” Luck said. “I know it’s a bunch of good guys, a bunch of fun guys who are really good football players. I’m excited to get going with them.”

Because of his improvement and the talent-rich roster around him, Luck enters the season with what many see as the highest expectations he’s faced in the NFL. But he doesn’t see it quite that way.

“I think as an athlete, professional or not, you put pressure on yourself constantly,” he said. “So I don’t think the pressure is necessarily any different than it was my rookie year or sophomore year at Stanford or junior year.”

“You want to win. That’s part of it. Pressure can be a good thing as long as it’s not being dictated by factors outside of your coaches, your teammates, family and maybe close friends.”

Though the pressure Luck faces no longer stems from Saturdays in Stanford Stadium, Stanford continues to have a major impact on Luck’s development. Luck returned to campus this offseason to train with fellow Cardinal alums Zach Ertz, David DeCastro, Coby Fleener, Tyler Gaffney, and Ben Gardner.

“It’s great to go back. [Strength and conditioning] coach [Shannon] Turley in the weight room, Coach Shaw, they provide a locker room for us. It’s a great setting,” Luck said. “Why would you go to school there? It’s one of the same answers to that question. It’s a great place, it holds a special place in my heart and I love coming back.”

In addition to training with former Stanford teammate of his, Luck has had the chance to play with several Cardinal alumni on the Colts, including Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen and Delano Howell. This year, the Colts added former Cardinal Henry Anderson and David Parry in the NFL Draft to join Fleener, Whalen and Luck and give the Colts five Cardinal alums on the roster.

“It’s been awesome, it’s been really, really fun,” Luck said about playing with former Cardinal in Indianapolis. “Griff [Whalen] and I were roommates for three years in college. It’s a special relationship and it’s cool to continue…[Coby Fleener], I was with him for three years at Stanford and here for three years so it’s been a lot of fun. Henry [Anderson] and David [Parry], I remember them as freshmen in the locker room so it’s been great to see how they’ve grown now as rookies in the NFL. It’s special and I think we all have a great relationship.”

“But shoot we got five guys on the roster right now,” he added. “Delano Howell was here and had to retire because of an injury. We count Coach Pep [Hamilton] as an honorary alumnus. The more the Cardinal fans love the Colts the better.”

Luck and the Colts look for their first win of the season this Sunday against the New York Jets at 5:30 p.m.

Thanks to DIRECTV, The Daily’s Michael Peterson had a chance to catch up with Andrew Luck and discuss his time in the NFL and his reflections on Stanford. DIRECTV provides students the ultimate, affordable package for college students to watch all the NFL action every Sunday via their NFLST.TV service, which is available to college students for under $100.

Contact Michael Peterson at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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