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“Do you know which one was Peyton’s?”
A group of Lucas Oil Stadium visitors shuffled into the Colts’ home locker room, all true-blue carpet and cherrywood shelving, as a middle-aged woman with dark cropped hair posed the question. Our guide gestured to what she called “Quarterback Corner,” the nook where the starter and his backups hang their helmets. Smartphones whipped out, and the 25 of us formed a huddle around the niche.
I booked a spot on the tour to see if the preseason hype over Andrew Luck had rubbed off on the “House Built by Champions” yet. That tagline is posted inside the entrance, though I’m pretty sure no one has ever really uttered it—“The House that Peyton Built” is more like it. Manning may have moved 1,000 miles away, but his ghost followed us around Lucas Oil that day, shaking its chains. There, in the locker room. In the pro shop, where his 6-foot, 5-inch cardboard cutout still holds court. In the pressroom, where a white-haired grandfather said: “This must be the place where the guys who can’t shut up about Manning hang out.”
I know what he means. Our tour only hinted at the legacy Luck will inherit this month—and much hay has been made over whether he’s up to the test. But after reading Michael MacCambridge’s profile, for which he not only spent time with the QB but went long, canvassing family, teammates, and coaches for insight, the answer seems clear: The Irsays couldn’t have scored a rookie more like No. 18 if they had ordered up Luck from a Perfect Playmakers catalog.
Taking over a position, though, is one challenge. Endearing yourself to a city whose skyline and hospitals and charities changed because of your predecessor is another. But the uphill battle to gain our trust may not be such a bad thing. Peyton joined the Colts with one chip on his shoulder—failing to win an NCAA title at Tennessee—and battled naysayers for nine years before he won a Super Bowl. Don’t we all perform a little better when we have something to prove?
In the meantime, let’s help out the young Stanford grad by giving him time to settle into Quarterback Corner—and earn our respect. Who knows? As tourists wind past the locker room next summer, maybe the question instead will be: “Do you know which one is Andrew’s?”
Amanda Heckert is the editor of Indianapolis Monthly. See her bio here.
This column appeared in the September 2012 issue.
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