Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Colts star ready to run

Luck champing at bit for work after sensational rookie season

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrew Luck can't wait to get back to work, even though he knows it won't be the same.

The Colts' locker-room will have plenty of new names and faces. Bruce Arians isn't around, so Indy's second-year quarterback will be working with a new offensive co-ordinator. Instead of wondering where he'll be playing in the fall or completing classes to earn his architectural degree, Luck can spend the entire off-season working with his teammates.

He's ready to get started.

"I think we've all been chomping at the bit since the last game," Luck said, referring to January's playoff loss at Baltimore. "It's nice to be back in town and seeing the guys trickle in."

On Monday, the veterans will be streaming into the team's west-side complex for their first team meeting of the 2013 season.

Before getting back to football, Luck was taking care of other business in Indianapolis -- launching Change The Play, a campaign intended to help children stay active and make healthy nutritional choices. Luck is working through Riley Hospital for Children and spent two hours Saturday going through exercises with about 50 kids at the Indiana University Health Sports Performance centre.

He wasn't alone.

Luck brought along several teammates, including running back Vick Ballard, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, defensive tackle Josh Chapman and receiver Griff Whalen. Also attending were IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball, who has a weekend off from racing, and Juergen Sommer, a Indiana University alum who was an American goalkeeper on two World Cup teams in the 1990s.

Of course, Luck was the star attraction.

"What sport would I play if I couldn't play football? I'd love to play soccer," he said when one of the children asked. "I grew up in Europe, so soccer was a big sport over there."

Here, he's an emerging NFL star.

Last season, he produced one of the best rookie seasons ever by a quarterback. He orchestrated one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in NFL history, as the Colts improved from 2-14 in 2011 to 11-5 and made a shocking return to the playoffs. He also set NFL rookie records for pass attempts (627) and yards passing (4,374) and most yards passing in a single game (433), broke Peyton Manning's franchise rookie mark for completions (354) and finished third all-time among rookies with 23 TD passes. Afterward, he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, where he played with Manning on the AFC team.

So how does a high-profile quarterback spend his first pro off-season?

"I took some time off, relaxed, worked on Change The Play and got back to work," he said.

When he gets back to the office this week, there will be plenty to do.

It starts with learning a new offence. Instead of relying on Arians' vertical passing game, new offensive co-ordinator Pep Hamilton will implement his version of the West Coast offence with a power running game.

Some young quarterbacks struggle to adapt to major offensive changes, but Luck has a built-in advantage. He worked with Hamilton at Stanford and ran a similar offence with the Cardinal, so he already knows the concepts and the playbook.

"I think it's the Colts offence, but it will be good," Luck said when asked about comparing it to the Stanford offence. "I'm excited to get to work with him (Hamilton). I think it will be good to not have to learn a whole new thing."

The upside of the change is that the Colts will have at least three players --- Luck, Coby Fleener and Whalen, all Stanford alums --- around to help teach their NFL teammates how it works.

There's at least one player Luck does not intend to mentor: Reggie Wayne.

"Reggie's too smart; he doesn't need me teaching him anything," Luck said.

But all Luck really wants to do this season is change the final chapter. "I'd like to go to a Super Bowl, but it's going to take a lot of work," he said. "We need to make sure we get to the team meeting on time Monday, first."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2013 B12

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