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The newest Colt, Andrew Luck, takes Manhattan

By Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News –

NEW YORK — Backstage at the Radio City Music Hall, in a hallway just outside the players’ green room, Andrew Luck squeezed past his father. The newly minted No. 1 pick was sporting a lapel pin shaped like the Indianapolis Colts horseshoe, a gift appended by his mother shortly after the pick.

“It took her a while to get it in,” Mary Ellen, the quarterback’s little sister, said. “She was like the high school boutonniere kid worried about poking someone.”

The horseshoe wasn’t the only thing pinned on the Stanford quarterback Thursday night. The top overall draft pick now represents the hopes of a Colts franchise hoping for a quarterback worthy of being billed as the next Peyton Manning.

“My football hero,” Luck called him, again.

If Luck had a dollar this week for every time he was asked about the pressure of filling Manning’s shoes, he’d have “¦ a contract that looks a lot like the one he’s poised to sign. ESPN reported that Luck will get a four-year contract worth just more than $22 million, with the figures based on what Cam Newton signed for as the No. 1 pick last year, in relation to the salary cap.

Even amid that hoopla, however, Luck carried himself with the same aw-shucks demeanor that gave rise to his reputation as the nerdy superstar from Stanford. Asked what he’d splurge on with his first NFL paycheck, Luck spoke of finding “a house or an apartment or something” near his new job.

It was suggested that he could now replace his antiquated flip phone. Luck laughed and shook his head. “I’m still resisting,” he said.

Maybe he’ll get a new phone as a graduation gift: After a cameo in Indianapolis on Friday to meet his new fans, Luck will head back to Palo Alto to compete his degree in architectural design major.

He plans to walk in graduation ceremonies this June, even though his job search ended when Commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name on stage. There was no shock, just some mild drama, as some boos erupted from inside Radio City Music Hall.

That greeting was followed by scattered chants of “RG-3! RG-3!” — as in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who would soon be taken second overall by the Washington Redskins.

Such an awkward introduction to the NFL didn’t faze Luck, who never stopped smiling. He vowed that his first act as Colts quarterback would be finding a way — within the rules — to work out as soon as possible with his new receivers, Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie.

“There’s stuff to do,” Luck said. “You can start going over the playbook. (I’d like to get) with Reggie and Austin and start throwing and try to start building up that rapport. That’ll be critical.”

Luck, a 6-foot-4, 234-pounder, threw 82 touchdown passes in just 38 games at Stanford. Though his name was not a surprise at No. 1, the choice was nonetheless significant. He becomes the Cardinal’s fourth quarterback to be taken first overall, the most by any school. The others are Bobby Garrett (1954), Jim Plunkett (‘71) and John Elway (‘83)

“Andrew Luck is about as near perfect of a prospect as we’ve had in a long, long time, and he’s the exact right guy for the Colts,” Steve Mariucci, the former 49ers coach, said on the NFL Network on Thursday night. “They can determine long-term now how they want to build their football team around him offensively and defensively.”

Luck floated around Radio City Music Hall for the rest of the night, doing interviews and congratulating the members of his fellow draft class. It was during those rounds that he happened by his father, Oliver, who informed his son that West Virginia linebacker Bruce Irvin had just gone 15th to the Seattle Seahawks.

“Sweet!” Andrew Luck exclaimed, high-fiving his dad.

Oliver Luck is the West Virginia athletic director. He is also a former NFL quarterback (a second-round pick), who was savvy enough to take Thursday night’s festivities in stride.

“There wasn’t really any intrigue surrounding where Andrew or Robert was going,” Oliver said. “Nonetheless it was a nice moment.”

The relaxed atmosphere for the Lucks this week allowed them to treat their trip to the Big Apple as a family vacation. They took in a Broadway show (“Warhorse”), sat in on a New York Times editorial meeting (the Lucks are newspaper junkies) — even if Andrew was too busy to go to either. They caught up with him when the quarterback taped an appearance Thursday with David Letterman. (Side note: Oliver went to eight years of grade school with Letterman’s wife.)

Now, though, that the glitz and glamour are over. Andrew will have to put away that pin and put on his work boots. He’s got shoes to fill.

“You hear that word ‘professional’ thrown around a lot when you’re in college,” Luck said. “They say, ‘Act like a professional.’

“Now, it really is that time. I feel very honored. I’m blessed. I’m fortunate to be in this situation to represent my family, the Colts and the NFL to the best of my abilities.”

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