Last Friday evening, I was lucky enough to be present for a question and answer session with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in London. Being the pitiful fanboy that I am, I travelled 200 miles to the other end of England to meet him, which took a painful 7 hours, but the end goal made it worthwhile – plus I showed up rocking my neckbeard and Colts shirt with pride to complete the fanboy image.
Luck spent the early years of his life outside of the States, as his father Oliver was the GM of two WLAF (World League of American Football) teams, and one of the cities that Luck was schooled in alongisde Frankfurt, Germany was London, so the event was in a sense a homecoming for Luck.
The evening, hosted by NFL UK, saw around 600 fans from across England have the opportunity to sit and ask Luck a number of questions, and I was fortunate enough to be able to record the evening and share some answers with you.
On NFL in the UK
"It's great. I remember being a kid and my Dad working for NFL Europe and having some long nights with him complaining about no-one showing up for anything…but it's amazing to see the different jerseys up there, it's pretty cool."
On the 2012 season
"Yeah it was basically a whirlwind year. Obviously the circumstances with Coach Pagano's battle with leukaemia and what a great job Bruce Arians did of righting our ship, and great veteran leadership from Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Cory Redding who kept our heads straight. We had a lot of rookies on offense – T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener…we had no clue what we were doing, so to have a Reggie Wayne to say "this is where you need to walk, this is what you need to do" was very helpful, and to win some games, get to the playoffs and have Coach Pagano come back and coach for the last two games, that was really special."
On being a rookie
"The coaching staff trusted us, that a young guy could go in there and perform, and that gives me confidence as a player. Usually as a rookie you think "I'm not quite sure what's going on", but Chuck Pagano believed I could go out and win games in the NFL, Bruce Arians believed I could run his offense well enough to win games, so like all team sports, accountability is such a big factor in football, because of the accountability of yourself to your linemen, to the receivers, to the running backs, as on offense to your defense and I want to hold myself accountability to those older guys, I wanted to hold my end of the bargain up."
On Jim Harbaugh
"Yeah, he's crazy. He's absolutely awesome to play for. He's excitable, he's competitive…everything's a competition, whether your lifting weights, whether you're in the meeting room. We had a competition to name his fourth born kid in the quarterback room. He's phenomenal, and he seems to have the golden touch when it comes to motivation and getting guys going. He turned Stanford around in a couple of years and what he's done with the 49ers has been amazing."
On the switchover from Bruce Arians to Pep Hamilton
"Bruce Arians was awesome, wonderful…sharp mind, nobody deserved a head coaching job more than him. I was selfishly upset that he left when he did but happy for him because he really deserves the chance to be a head coach in this league. I got to work with Pep at Stanford for a number of years, so I'm grateful not to have to learn a new system. The different offenses have different history behind them, and it's almost like learning a new language. When I left Stanford and starting learning BA's offense, it was a new language – what I used to call "Ram" we now called "Hinge", so when I used to call "Special", we now called "Jesse", so I'm happy I don't have to learn a third new thing. I think there might be a little more emphasis on the run game, that was sort of what his 'shtick' was up at Stanford. He's got a lot of great guys and Darrius Heyward-Bey was added to the team, he has great speed and can do a lot of good things so hopefully we'll be a dynamic offense."
On any bitterness towards Robert Griffin III, having been beaten to the Heisman Trophy and Rookie of the Year
"To be honest, no. The night of those things, I was disappointed, but I respect Robert a lot, he's a phenomenal football player and what he gets, he deserves. But I've never been worried too much, about personal accolades. I think I view it as…I care about what my teammates think of me, what my coaches think of me, what my family think of me and my close friends, but when awards are voted on by members of the media…In the NFL it's great to win as it's a competitive culture, and people love to win but I wouldn't want to do things differently or wish I could go back, so the way it is, is the cards that were dealt."
On the transition from college football to the NFL
"Much faster, much bigger, much stronger, much more thought, a lot more to deal with. It's a job, you're not a kid anymore per se, you don't have school to go to, this is what you're getting paid for. You owe the fans, you owe the owner, you owe the coaches, you owe your teammates a professional manner of work. And then the length of the season is a lot longer – we played 21 games including preseason and the playoff game, the most I'd ever played was 13 or 14, so to stay fresh, to stay emotionally invested for 16 games is tough. It's been called the rookie wall…every rookie has it, I had it…it's the week where you're just unmotivated to work, you've just got to find a way to get through it."
On Jonathan Martin and his ability to play left tackle
"Played with him at Stanford for a period, I think he'll do fine. He played in the PAC-12, which I think was one of the higher level football conferences in College, and I think we only gave up 5 sacks in my junior year and 7 in my senior year and he only gave up one of those. He can pass protect, he can do everything he needs to do to be a great left tackle in this league."
On the possibility of players being drafted to a foreign franchise
"I think Menelik Watson would've been happy! I think you're talking about London of course, but maybe Toronto is another option. It's a double edged sword – as a kid growing up overseas, I think it'd be awesome. To see the support that the game Wembley have had the past couple of years and as a child of the NFL Europe days I think it'd be really, really cool. I think there's maybe a market for it but the logistics as a player would be tough. Think about playing the San Francisco 49ers and you're based in London, and then you've got to fly back and then you're playing in the mid-west, so I think logistically it would be tough, but as players, why wouldn't see it as a great opportunity to see a different part of the world and to live in a different culture, in one of the great cities of the world in London. It's the 21st century, crazier things have been done, we could make it work somehow but it's all up to Commissioner Goodell I guess."
On which non-active receiver he would most like to throw to
"I think Jerry Rice, obviously with everything that he did. The consistency throughout his career was pretty amazing, his records may never be broken, though I guess Calvin Johnson broke a couple of them this year, but his career records are pretty impressive and I've heard a lot of stories about him and his work ethic."
On Matt Hasselbeck
"Matt's been great, he's phenomenal. He's probably forgotten more about football than I've learnt in my life. He's got a really good head on his shoulders, he's played in different offenses so he has a good feel for different ways to attack defenses, and he's a consummate professional. You can have a backup that maybe isn't always looking out for your best interests, that's gonna try and undercut you or go around your back to get his foot in there but that's not the case at all. It wasn't the case with Drew [Stanton] either, he was great for me in my rookie year and it's great to have Matt here now, he's really been a great addition."
On playing in the Wembley game in the future
"Absolutely, think it would be great. To play at Wembley would be cool. They call it the Cathedral of Football…or Soccer. So playing there would be neat."
On aggressiveness when throwing
"It's the nature of the NFL – the windows are small. Defensive backs are some of the quickest players in the league and the windows are small but I think you have to build confidence with your receivers, your timing…how does Reggie Wayne get out of a break as opposed to T.Y. Hilton, how do Dwayne [Allen] and Coby [Fleener] run down the middle of the field as opposed to wide receivers, so building a rapport with your receivers is important in the off-season because I think then you understand where they'll be before they get there. I never thought BA's attitude was to just "wing it", it's not an excuse to throw an interception but never second guess yourself – whatever you did, you made it, you did it full speed, if you messed up, you messed up – next play, and that I think is a great attitude for a young quarterback to come into, because you quickly build confidence in your own arm, you think "okay, I can make that out throw to the field on a big corner" or "I can throw a vertical seam in the alley." I think being able to bounce back from interceptions is something that's important…like a defensive back, you need to have a short term memory. If someone beats you deep as a DB, then it's alright, next play, away you go. As a quarterback, if you throw an interception…don't think about it too much because you're about to be on the field in a couple of minutes and you don't want to throw another one, you want to go and score. Everybody is gonna make mistakes, you're going to have failure along the way, but bouncing back is, I think, important. If you're going to be affected negatively by a bad play you made or someone else messed up and you throw an interception because of that…going into your shell, I think then the game is over and you've got no chance."
On relationship with the offensive linemen
"I try and take care of the offensive linemen, because they're taking care of you, and making sure you can walk home after a game…so last year as a rookie I took them out for a couple of nice dinners…I won't tell you how much the bill was, it's a bit embarrassing…we got them Christmas presents, but as far as weekly things go…no, there's no organised O-linemen thing, maybe we'll start this year. It's different in an NFL locker room – I'm 23, I don't have kids, I live with my girlfriend and you get guys who are 33 years old, have four kids and a life, they're not going to leave the house every Wednesday night, they've got people to take care of. It's a much different locker room dynamic than in college, where you all hang out all the time, you live in the dorm, you go to class together."
On replacing a legendary quarterback – Curtis Painter
On whether he ever thought he should've declared for the 2011 Draft
"Once I'd made the decision, I didn't need football wins to validate coming back, I didn't need to be healthy to validate coming back. I came back to school because at the time, I wanted to come back and grow up. I enjoyed college, I enjoyed being with my friends, enjoyed everything about Stanford and California, and getting an education, all that good stuff, but not once did I say "oh man, I'm so glad we won because if we'd lost, it would've ruined me coming back to school", that wasn't a big factor in it."
On what he thought as he took his first snap in the NFL
"Holy shit, what am I doing?"
On pressure of facing "stars", including Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers on debut
"It did hit me, the star aspect of it and for me it was when I walked into our locker room during training camp and Dwight Freeney says "hey rook, get over to my locker, now!" But you get over that aspect and it was neat going out and with Urlacher retiring, I feel fortunate that maybe one day I can look back on it and say "well, I got to play against Brian Urlacher in his last year", so that's neat. Once the ball is snapped and you're looking downfield, they turn into nameless, faceless people out there and yeah, you know who the personnel are and the guys you've got to worry about, but I don't thin in the game you're gonna get caught up in facing Julius Peppers. That's not a discredit to them, they're phenomenal players, but you can't get caught up in that as you're doing a disservice to your team."
On staying focused
"I think part of it is making sure you have a relief from football, at least once a week or so, and to me that's making sure that no matter how I played on Sunday – terribly or great – I enjoy dinner after a game with my family if they're in town. We'll talk about football for 10 or 15 minutes but after that, I'm just gonna relax and enjoy dinner with them. I enjoy reading so 15 minutes of reading a book, as long as it's not football before bed or something during the day just to get your mind off of football. I love watching soccer so that's sort of my escape as well, try and play some FIFA or watch a couple of games. In terms of teams, I'm a [Clint] Dempsey supporter…so Tottenham right now. I did follow Fulham for a couple of years though."
On the best memory of 2012
"I think the Green Bay Packers game, that was the game after Coach Pagano was admitted into the hospital to undergo chemotherapy…it was a weird week…when you don't have a coach, and you're brought into the team meeting room on Monday morning after a bye week and it's like 'alright, your coach is undergoing leukaemia' and when you put a percentage on someone living, that's when you think it's serious. I think Reggie Wayne had about 12 catches for 216 yards and a career day, and he wore orange gloves, which I think is the colour of leukaemia research or recovery. At home, lot of emotion, it was big to get a win as we were 1-2 at the point, and the Green Bay Packers are obviously a great team with a great quarterback and great defensive players, so to get a win against them after that week was big, very big for us."
On what changed after Pagano was diagnosed
"I don't there can be one thing that you can say 'yeah, that's why we did well'. I thing guys just bought in, worked hard. I think the Lions game is a great example, we had a young team in certain areas, but a small, really good core of veteran leadership, that was really awesome to see. Reggie Wayne just wants to help the team, Robert Mathis just wants to help the team. We had a young team that wouldn't stop playing, and in Detroit we were down, we were playing awful, but we still played hard and luckily enough, managed to get a win, but there are many factors that helped us win games."
On Pagano's speech against Miami
"We didn't know Coach Pagano was gonna be there. I think guys sort of heard whispers, maybe they showed him on the Jumbotron at one point in the game? Oh wait, maybe he talked to the team before the game actually if I remember correctly…we weren't aware that he was coming in to sort of see us all, and it was like 'Oh my God, this is a big deal, he's out of hospital.", which gave the team a big lift."
On what it's like living in Indy
"There's a family friendly atmosphere and the folks in the mid-west are very very kind, and it's great to live there as they're so damn nice. I love Indy. It's no London, I'll say that…it's no New York City! There's great food in Indy, great steakhouses…the big thing right now in Indianapolis is the Indy 500, which is one of the premiere racing events in the world, I think it's about 250,000 people that watch it? It's a big deal for the state, the city really does love sport, whether it's the Indy 500, the Colts, the Pacers are in the playoffs right now against the Heat, which is a big deal, trying to take down LeBron James."
On the possibility of a woman ever playing in the NFL
"Honestly, I'm not sexist in any way, but I can't see a woman playing in the NFL. I think if there is one good enough, why not? I think it'd be a shame for women to not be allowed the opportunity to try out. It's tough, but if they're good enough to play, why not."
On 'replacing Peyton'
"I never viewed it as having to replace Peyton. I think if you try and measure yourself to Peyton Manning every day, you'd go crazy. What he does at the quarterback position is almost unprecedented. To me, that's how the cards were dealt – I didn't make the decision to release Peyton and draft me, so I was just eager to show up for the Colts. I didn't worry about who the quarterback before me was, I'm not gonna worry about who the quarterback who replaces me one day is, I just want to go and realise a dream of playing football in the NFL. I didn't try to get caught up in filling anybody's shoes, and I think that's out of respect for Peyton and all that he's accomplished. We talk about it in the locker room. If Reggie Wayne played with Peyton Manning for 12 years, won a Super Bowl and broke every passing record, I need to figure out how they did that! I need to see what makes Peyton so good, how can I emulate him in certain ways? But I think that goes for a lot of professionals – how is Aaron Rodgers playing at such a high level, what can I try and take from his game and apply to my game? What is Drew Brees doing really, really well, why is Ben Roethlisberger winning Championships?"
On replacement referees
"I didn't know any different, they were my first games. I'd never been with any other referees in the NFL, but I know a bunch of the holder guys were mad about it. I didn't know any different and was worrying about so many other things in my first couple of things."
On the read-option
"There's a lot of talk about the read-option being a fad, but I don't think it's a fad. I'm sure it'll lessen or more at some point but I think there's a place for it in offenses. I think if you have an athletic quarterback – obviously you want to protect your quarterback, you look at what happened to Robert [Griffin III] last year with running a lot, but I think there is a place for the read-option integrated into a scheme in the NFL. I can't run like that, so I'll stay away from it."
On how much input he had in appointing Pep Hamilton
"I was asked for my opinion on Pep, and obviously consulted in terms of whether I had a good relationship with him and would I want to play for him again, and I said yes to all of the above, but Mr. Grigson has got his job for a reason, he knows what he's doing. I trust the front office, I don't want to step above my rung in the ladder, but I'm glad they ended up hiring him because I do think we work very well together."
On Richard Sherman, former Stanford teammate
"He's not an asshole, not at all. He's a very sharp guy, and I think he's got a plan. He made a lot of news this whole year for talking a lot, having incidents with Tom Brady and calling out Skip Bayless…but Richard started as a wide receiver at Stanford, when I was there, and moved to defensive back in my last two years. It's amazing to see his transition to being so good, so fast. Stanford played USC back in 2007, this was before I was there, it's been called the greatest upset ever in college football. We were 41 point underdogs or 49 point underdogs, just ridiculous, but we won. Richard caught a 4th and 20 pass on a two minute drive, and then three plays later they throw the fade in the endzone to win it, so he's got a knack for knowing how to make plays. I think his ball skills as a receiver make him an even better corner."
"Health and especially brain trauma is something you have to be concerned of when you play. Personally, I wear a mouthpiece, I wear the hard chinstrap in the new helmets as I think it'll protect me, and I think the league is doing a good job…I'm sure it could be better, you can always improve and I hope they feel that way. As players, we hope that the league is always working to create a safer playing environment, without losing the integrity of the game and what makes football so fun to watch and play. I think, being in the 21st century and all the technology that's coming out, hopefully there's a push to research how to protect your brain better and what protective gear you can wear, so hopefully it can continue to get better."
On getting the call from Indy on draft night
"Er, probably knew it was coming. I was excited, very excited at the chance to be the number one pick, the chance to play football. I can't really remember what was said, it just sort of happened."
On "Suck for Luck" and looking at possible destinations
"First of all, that campaign was stupid…I think it was going on in the midst of our college season, and I managed to really not care about the NFL at that point. All I wanted to do was focus on college football and Stanford's goal to win a National Championship, which we obviously didn't, but just focused on college football and on our season – I didn't really look at cities and think "I'd love to live on the beach in Miami" or "I can be at my Grandmother's house in Cleveland", I didn't get into it and thought the campaign was very…shallow and pedantic."
On losing on purpose
"People do not throw games. That's the lowest point. Even if you have a poor record like the Colts did last year, you still want to win and they won two games, beat the Houston Texans. Players play with pride – it doesn't matter who you are, anyone can beat anyone on any given Sunday. It's just a winning culture."
This section was a "finish that sentence" feature, where questions were asked to Luck and he simply had to finish the line.
Q. The most fan abuse I received on the road this season was in…
A. Baltimore. When you've got a father and son mooning at you…
Q. The best stadium – apart from Lucas Oil – I played at this season was…
A. Soldier Field…that was fun.
Q. I don't like playing football when…
A. I get hit.
Q. The biggest trash talker I've faced in the NFL is…
A. Clay Matthews…doesn't talk much trash but just talks…a lot.
Q. The song I would most like Jim Irsay to sing in the locker room is…
A. Baby Got Back.
Q. The Pro Bowl is not just a holiday in Hawaii because…
A. I have nothing…actually, a great thing about the Pro Bowl in Hawaii is they don't have a pro team either, so it's a good to chance to go out to the fans over there and you get heavily involved in the military bases too.
Q. On team flights, I would never, ever want to sit next to…
A. Cory Redding – he's huge!
Q. The most diva-ish thing I've done since turning pro is…
A. You'd have to ask my girlfriend that! Actually, funny story – in the offseason, I was trying to get into a dance club, so I walked up there and said – I didn't want to say it – 'Hi, I'm Andrew…' and just got 'Back of the line'. I thought 'yeah, that's about right, I should never do this again.'
The whole event was fantastic, brilliant of NFL UK to host such a night and Luck came across brilliantly: a very funny and smart guy who I'm proud to say is our quarterback. I hope most of the questions and answers provide you with some insight into Luck's career so far and some of his views on the big issues in the game.