When the Indianapolis Colts report to training camp on Saturday, July 28, 2012, it won’t be their first time at Anderson University. From their inaugural season in Indianapolis in 1984 through 1998, training camp had always taken place in Anderson. That changed in 1999 when the decision was made to move camp to Terre Haute. For the next 11 years, the Colts would spend training camp at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, only to once again move it back to Anderson University in 2010.
This year’s team brings an unmistakably different roster of 90 players, all of whom will compete for a starting position in the NFL, and some of whom will ultimately not make it. By August 28, only 80 players will have survived the first round of cuts. And by September 2, the final 53-man roster will have been decided.
While the process of acquiring and evaluating talent is a never-ending one, especially in an injury-prone sport like professional football, training camp presents a special opportunity for teams to evaluate players in a more exhaustive fashion. It’s a chance for players to show they possess not only the right mental and physical skills, but the right character. For rookie players who survive the final cut, it represents the realization of a life-long dream, to play on an NFL team.
But it is the one player who failed to make the roster that guarantees this year’s training camp will be very different from years past. With no Peyton Manning, the team is faced with building a new identity, one that has barely begun to take shape. One thing’s for sure: It will most decidedly involve first-round draft pick Andrew Luck, the player drafted to (hopefully) carry on the tradition of greatness that will always be synonymous with the Manning era.
There’s a certain strange coincidence, some might even call it serendipity, in the fact that it is Luck who replaces Manning. Recall in 1998 that it was Peyton Manning who replaced then-Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Fast-forward to 2010, and it is none other than Jim Harbaugh who served as Andrew Luck’s coach at Stanford. After 2 seasons as Stanford’s starting quarterback Luck goes on to replace Manning and the circle is complete.
While there are many differences between Manning and Luck, there are also some very striking similarities that are hard to ignore. Both Manning and Luck are students of the game. Both are highly self-critical, and both possess an almost pathological work ethic. Both are sons of former NFL quarterbacks. Both were runners up to the Heisman Trophy but never actually won it. And both set all-time school passing records on their respective teams.
Of course, only time will tell what kind of NFL player Andrew Luck will become. But how strange would it be if he turned out to be a hall-of-fame quarterback? I mean, how vanishingly slim are any NFL team’s odds of finding even one hall-of-fame player, let alone replacing him with yet another?
A new era of Colts football is in the making, one filled with a strange mixture of disappointment, hope and excitement. What kind of team the post-Manning, Luck-led Colts will become is anyone’s guess. With a whole lot of time and a little bit of Luck, both literally and figuratively, the potential for greatness may one day be realized. As with every year, it begins with training camp. At least we can all start looking forward to Colts football soon!