Colts interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knew he had something special in rookie quarterback Andrew Luck following an OTA practice back in the spring.
Luck missed the Colts' rookie minicamp because he was graduating from Stanford, so his first NFL action was during OTAs. On the third day, the Colts installed their empty-set offense and Arians said the defense had about eight blitzes ready for Luck.
"He came in and I said, ‘What was it like?' He said, ‘Felt like I was in a tsunami. I don't think I drowned, but I was real close,'" Arians told Detroit reporters in a conference call Wednesday of the conversation he had with Luck following that spring practice
"So, he came in, he watched the tape and he looked at me and said, ‘That's really easy.' (I said), yeah, this is all you got to do. The next time we had that drill he lit (them) up. I said, ‘We got a keeper.'"
It appears that way.
Luck has already tied Sam Bradford's record for the most victories by a No. 1 pick quarterback with seven, and he still has five games remaining.
The Colts are 7-4 and currently the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture.
"Once we decided he was our guy we were going to throw him in there to sink or swim," Arians said. "But the guys around him have come alive and helped him a ton. There are a bunch of rookies fighting it out together."
Luck has passed for 3,205 yards, most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history through his team's first 11 games. He has five 300-yard passing games, most by a rookie all-time and he leads AFC quarterbacks in rushing yards (183) and rushing touchdowns (5). He had 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
"He has made a lot of big plays," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Luck. "He's done a really good job of moving in the pocket. The thing that's very difficult to coach is he has very good pocket-awareness. Does a great job of stepping up in the pocket, keeps plays alive."
It wasn't the easiest of transitions for Luck, though. He took the place of a sure-fire Hall of Famer in Peyton Manning, who signed with the Broncos when the Colts went with Luck.
Arians said that from Day 1 Luck has come in and has tried to be the best Andrew Luck he could be, and hasn't tried to fill anyone else's shoes.
"He's just trying be himself," Arians said. "He's not trying to be Peyton. He's just trying to go out and play as hard as you can and be as smart as you can with the football each week. That's all you can do. "
Luck has done a good job fo that so far this season and the Lions defense will have their work cut out for them.
"When (the Colts) came back and beat Green Bay, a lot of those plays were off-schedule plays that (Luck) scrambled and kept the play alive and they were able to make it down the field," Schwartz said.
"As much as you can coach the offense, what you're doing and what defenses are doing, there's a little bit of innate ability that goes to pocket-awareness and also being able to make plays on the run. He's certainly done that for him, particularly in their wins.
The Colts are tied with the Broncos – ironically enough – for the league lead with 49 passes of 20-plus yards. The Lions have 48.
"I think it's trying to be consistent and not getting too down if you lose a game or throw multiple picks," Luck said when asked what the toughest part of his transition into the NFL has been. "And not getting too high if you end up winning games."
Luck has been doing a lot of that as a rookie -- the winning games part -- and that's the one stat he and any other quarterback will ultimately be judged on.