A big thanks to friend of the site Jeremy Stevenson for sending us this reflection. You can follow Jeremy, otherwise known as @MyColtsAccount, on Twitter for more of his Colts ramblings and entertaining photoshops. And by “can follow,” I mean please do. One of my favorite Colts-related follows. -KJR
1st and 10.
At the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 31 yard line.
2:24 remaining on the clock.
No, this wasn’t one of the quintessential Peyton Manning comebacks. It wasn’t a heroic, last-minute drive by Andrew Luck. In fact, neither men stood on EverBank Field on this particular play. It was Blaine Gabbert, running one of the most important plays in Indianapolis Colts history. One handoff and eleven yards later, it was official; the Colts were guaranteed the number one selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. With so many questions swirling around the Colts’ future, there was one certainty amongst draft analysts and Colts fans: The Colts simply could not pass up the opportunity to draft a once-in-a-generation talent like Andrew Luck, quarterback from Stanford University.
March 7th marked another significant date in Colts history, as owner Jim Irsay announced the team was releasing their sheriff of 14 years, Mr. Peyton Manning. The end of an era. Though those 14 years were filled with fond memories and countless incredible performances, many viewed the Manning era as a disappointment, with only two Super Bowl appearances and one championship.
Since that fateful Wednesday afternoon, I have spent much time reflecting on the legacy of the Peyton Manning-led Colts. Many of my early football memories took place during that era. As a young Canadian kid with very little NFL exposure for much of his life, I began cheering for the Colts in the early 2000s. I jumped on the bandwagon. I inherited a team filled with future Hall of Famers. I bought a No. 18 jersey, and called myself a fan. I threw it in the face of my father; an aggrieved, life-long follower of the Browns. It was a great ride, and now it was coming to a screeching halt. Was I supposed to have a feeling of dissatisfaction because only one of Peyton’s ten fingers adorned a ring featuring a tacky, diamond-encrusted Lombardi trophy?
As I have aged, I have learned to appreciate individual sports moments in life; Watching the 2006 AFC Championship game on a stolen satellite feed in my parents’ basement. Watching “4th and 2” at midnight on my honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. These were watermark sports moments in my life that I can clearly recall, from the location to the food. In just two seasons, Andrew Luck had created so many of these moments:
A “ChuckStrong” Sunday against the powerhouse Packers, as Luck and Reggie Wayne willed their team to victory.
A monumental comeback in Detroit, featuring the only moment in my life where Donnie Avery has caused me to leap out of my seat.
A humbling of Seattle’s dreaded “Legion of Boom.”
A Sunday night showdown, where Luck outshone the aforementioned Mr. Manning.
And most recently, a 28-point playoff comeback lead by Luck and a group of no name wide receivers, featuring a touchdown dive that will occupy Twitter profile pictures for years to come.
In times that I reflect on my favourite football moments, I often omit Super Bowl XLI. Was it a great moment in Colts history? Absolutely! However, the game itself? Fairly uneventful to me. Aside from overcoming an early deficit, the game was never really in doubt. I spent the evening more interested in the spread of food, rather than the on-field activity. We celebrated until the early hours of Monday morning, as Peyton finally raised the Lombardi. However, as I awoke the next morning, I sort of felt… the same. My life hadn’t changed, I certainly had not facilitated this Colts’ victory in any fashion. In fact, I still had to walk into work early Monday morning, bloodshot eyes and all. Life went on.
Having become a Colts fan years after Peyton was drafted, I never fully felt as though he was my quarterback. I had inherited greatness, I had not earned my fandom. That all changed on April 26, 2012, as the beloved Roger Goodell proclaimed:
“With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck, quarterback, Stanford.”
And there he was, my quarterback. I suffered through 16 grueling games of Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins. I earned this one. The blue No. 18 jersey took its rightful place in the closet, until the day Peyton retires, and will once again become appropriate Sunday attire.
In its place came a beautiful blue No. 12 jersey, slightly larger to account for a recently expanded midsection.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to having Andrew Luck on your team is that you will never be counted out. There is no deficit too large, no opponent too great; every game is another opportunity to add one of those inconceivable sports moments to my life. I live for those moments, and I have learned to cherish them.
During the Peyton Manning era, I was often so focused on the ultimate goal of the Lombardi, that I discounted so many great individual moments along the way. While still in the early stages of Andrew Luck’s career, I have been proactive in setting aside longterm expectations, to enjoy one game at a time, to appreciate each moment.
The night that Andrew Luck raises the Lombardi trophy over his head, we will celebrate late into the night. And once again, on Monday morning, I will return to my place of work, with the most jubilant, bloodshot eyes you’ve ever seen.
And if he doesn’t win the Super Bowl? Ah well, it’s just a game.