BEREA: When Andrew Luck was a kid, his uncle Tim Luck owned Browns season tickets and often took him to games.
“I always wanted to be in the Dawg Pound growing up,” said Luck, now the starting quarterback for another blue-collar Midwestern team, the Indianapolis Colts. “I thought it was the coolest thing.”
So was an old Browns sweatshirt that was passed down the family tree for years.
“It was from the late ’70s or something,” Luck said. “Every one of my siblings and I wore it at some point in our lives. We all thought it was a real cool vintage sweatshirt.”
The sweatshirt came from his father, Oliver Luck, who grew up in Cleveland and quarterbacked at St. Ignatius High School and West Virginia University before being drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1982.
“I always listened to the stories about my dad going to the old Browns Stadium,” Luck said. “So we grew up sort of rooting for them.”
The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Luck still has plenty of relatives in the Cleveland area.
“A lot of my dad’s family,” he said. “Some uncles, some aunts, my grandmother — the matriarch of the family is still there — and cousins. But I haven’t been back in a long time, which is sort of a shame. I’ll try to make it back since I’m living so close now.”
Being so humble and down-to-earth is a big reason that Luck, a rookie from Stanford, has made a relatively smooth transition not only into the NFL as the first overall pick in the draft, but also in taking over the Colts from future hall of famer Peyton Manning.
Luck’s overall performance has been inconsistent in his first five professional games, but he’s proving to be a quick study.
“I see the guy that we all were hoping we could have drafted,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s throwing the ball extremely well. He’s getting a feel for his skill players and he’s doing a really smart thing — he’s throwing the ball to [veteran receiver] Reggie Wayne a lot, which confirms why he went to Stanford.”
In Luck’s debut against the Chicago Bears, he showed off his strong arm in amassing 309 passing yards. He also showed his youth with three interceptions in a 41-21 loss. In his second game — a 23-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings — Luck looked more like a grizzled veteran. After tossing two touchdown passes, he marched the Colts 45 yards in 23 seconds to set up a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.
Luck again topped the 300-yard mark in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Colts lost 23-20 on a touchdown on the Jaguars’ final drive in the closing minute.
Luck rebounded with a huge come-from-behind victory against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. After falling behind early, Luck threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns.
“[Luck] has a really big arm,” Browns cornerback Joe Haden said. “He’s not afraid to throw it into coverage. He trusts his arm a lot and you have to be on your P’s and Q’s because if it’s good coverage or not, he’s still going to throw it.”
Of the Colts’ three losses, a 35-9 stumble last week to the New York Jets was Luck’s worst outing — 280 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times and fumbled once, finishing with a 51.3 passer rating.
“He made a couple early mistakes being too anxious to get the ball out of his hand because he knew the guys were wide open,” Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians said. “I told him, ‘Just relax and let it play out. Don’t throw it two steps early. You’ve got it right where you want it, just get the ball in there and don’t try it too hard.’ It’s not like lack of focus, it’s trying too hard.”
That’s the lesson Luck takes against the Browns.
“You have to be consistent in this league if you want to be successful,” he said. “You can’t take a play off and miss a wide-open guy in the end zone or have a decent drive and have it be third-and-1 and miss an open guy. Consistency is just so important.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.