QB-turned-tackler Andrew Luck draws high praise from Colts teammates after throwing INT

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you want to understand one of the fundamental differences why the Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin III, Thursday was a tutorial.

Luck, 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, is a man who can impose his will on a game even when things aren't going well. Griffin, 6-2, 217, is a man you're afraid will be imposed upon.

This is the fundamental, physical element to the game. Where Luck is built along the lines of a linebacker, Griffin is a sprinter. Sure, both can work, but the odds are that the linebacker is going to last longer.

Luck showed that time and again in Indianapolis' most dominating win of its improbable season. The Colts improved to 6-3 on Thursday night at Everbank Field primarily because at the key moments of a 27-10 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Luck was willing to stick his nose where most quarterbacks fear to go.

Even more, some places where teammates prefer the quarterback not go.

Luck rushed for two touchdowns, ran for another first down and played a generally efficient game. He also showed off his toughness by attempting to make a tackle after throwing an interception in the second quarter.

It was a legitimate shot at Jaguars safety Dawan Landry, with Luck going low and hard at Landry. Luck even did it with anger.

"If I'm going to be the one who turns the ball over, I'm damn sure going to at least try and stop the guy," Luck said without a hint of a smile or chuckle.

"Oh, I know exactly what he was thinking after that interception," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. "He was like, 'That mother effer, I'm going to go get him."

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Bottom line, Luck is one tough hombre, not just a pretty boy quarterback who expects other people to do his dirty work or fix his mistakes. That was clear at Stanford, such as Luck's famous tackle of a USC defender after a turnover. Or the time he leveled a Cal safety on a scramble.

But Luck still went to a place Thursday evening most quarterbacks never venture. For anyone who has seen Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Dan Marino after an interception, going after a defender usually entails a couple of steps of a light jog and then a wave of the hands.

Luck is different and that's one of the things that endears him so quickly to teammates. Ultimately, that has helped the transition from Manning to the new era that has the Colts back in contention when most people thought this was going to be a rebuilding year.

That's why offensive and defensive guys alike seem drawn to Luck.

"Man, that was nice, that show of toughness," Colts backup linebacker Moise Fokou said. "You see the quarterback do that, take one for the team like that, it gets you fired up, knowing he's going to be just like the rest of us.

Fokou then smiled and said: "Just don't do it too much. Maybe once a year for the first couple of years. Then we'll show the tape every year to the new guys and say, 'Yeah, this is our guy, look at how tough he is.' "

Veteran defensive tackle Cory Redding, a man who is shaped more like the trunk of a redwood tree and has a deep voice to match, looked at Luck a different way – a way that most quarterbacks don't get viewed.

"He's a football player, not just a quarterback," Redding said. "He made a football play when he had to. He made a mistake, that happens. But when you make a mistake, you do something about it and he did."

Redding nodded appreciatively at Luck's everyman approach. Unquestionably, the Colts will need that type of attitude and effort if they're going to continue to make something out of this season. The Colts came into this short-week game without six injured starters, including defensive end/linebacker Robert Mathis. That's on top of the fact that coach Chuck Pagano is still out after being stricken with leukemia.

Of course, 1-8 Jacksonville is pretty easy prey right now. The Jaguars stopped the Colts on their first drive, but the Colts then reeled off three straight scores for a 17-0 lead. That score was improbable for a Colts team whose previous five wins were by a total of 19 points.

The scoring drives against Jacksonville weren't exactly pretty, but Luck did what was necessary. A week after his rookie record 433 yards passing last week, Luck wasn't quite as sharp with his throws. This time, he took to his feet. He scored on a 5-yard run early in the second quarter and then punched in a fourth-and-goal run from the 1 to end the next drive.

Bottom line, Luck not only has enough speed to be an effective runner, he has the willingness.

"I've always really liked that part of the game," Luck said later as he stood by his locker. For all his talents as a passer, Luck appreciates the grinder side of the game. At Stanford, he hung out with the offensive linemen and his infamous neck beard is anything but elegant.

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This week, in honor of Pagano, who has lost his hair from cancer treatments, Colts players shaved their heads. For Luck and many of his teammates, this isn't a particularly good look.

"Not nice, not nice," interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said with a shudder of Luck's shaved dome. "I'm sure his mom is not real fired up about."

She's probably not too fired up about her baby making tackles, either.

But Luck's teammates sure are.

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