Manning, Luck take Indy by storm on draft weekend
Six months before the two friendly quarterbacks square off on the football field for the first time, the dream quarterback pairing wound up in Indianapolis on Saturday at different charity events for different Indianapolis children's hospitals.
The only tricky part was answering all those pesky questions.
''Are you looking forward to playing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos this year?'' one young boy blurted out at the end of a short question-and-answer session.
Luck's response: ''Yeah, that will be a tough game. We have a bunch of games before that, though, so we'll worry about the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 and then the next one in Week 2, Week 3, Week 4 and so on. But it should be great when it happens.''
It's a game Indianapolis is already buzzing about.
Luck, the current Colts quarterback, was the architect of one of the greatest turnarounds in league history last year, a nine-game improvement over 2012 and got the Colts back to the playoffs. Manning, of course, took two years to get things turned around in Indy but he did it by orchestrating a record-setting 10-game improvement, winning a division title and then kept Indianapolis a Super Bowl contender for nearly a decade and a half.
Here, Luck and Manning will always be judged against one another. But Oct. 20 is the first time they'll actually meet at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Neither former No. 1 pick wanted to discuss it Saturday.
''I know that I will reflect on it and have some thoughts on that week in October. I was pleased when the schedule came out, having gone through this a little bit, having played against Eli (before),'' Manning said. ''I don't know if it's similar, but I know in 2006, when we played Eli, it was the first game of the season. So people were allowed to ask about that opening game and we kind of had to talk about it because it was the first game, but I'm glad that Giants game is Week 2 and that game against Colts is week whatever, so I really don't have to talk about it until that week and that's when I will.''
Instead, both Pro Bowl quarterbacks were all business Saturday.
Luck was again publicizing his Change The Play program, an initiative to help children stay healthy. He's teamed up with Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and was conducting the second part of an eight-week exercise program at the Health and Fitness Expo at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
The four-time MVP, meanwhile, was across town hosting his annual fundraiser for the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent in Indy. Manning has traditionally held the fundraiser in late April or early May and brings in big-name entertainment. Saturday's feature attraction was country music star Luke Bryan. The event raises money by auctioning off items, which have previously included an autograph from Mother Teresa and a clipping from a contract signed by Marilyn Monroe.
Organizers didn't say how much they expected to raise Saturday. Manning also attended a fundraiser with former Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday night at the downtown the library.
Manning felt right at home in his old stomping grounds where he played the first 14 seasons of his NFL career.
''I feel a little more comfortable this year,'' he said. ''I still get lost quite often driving around Denver. By no means are we settled, so I'm just trying to think about my day job right now.''
Manning was asked if he was 100 percent after returning from a nerve injury that forced him to miss the entire 011 season and put his NFL career jeopardy. He declined to say how close he was to 100 percent though he acknowledged he still goes through regular rehab treatments.
''The way that I always express it is that I have proven that I can play,'' Manning said. ''I'd still like to improve. You should want to improve every year. But there are still some things that I'd like to be able to get back before I was injured.''
The other big part of the weekend, of course, was the NFL draft.
Luck didn't take questions from the media and Manning didn't comment on any of the Broncos picks except to say that he had texted the players Denver took on the first two days of the draft.
Why? Because they wanted to keep the focus on what they were doing -- not who they are or where they were.
''Anybody that's helping kids, they're doing good things,'' Manning said. ''When you're helping kids that are sick or that are injured, that's good for everybody and that's good for the families that are involved. The children's hospital at St.Vincent and the kids that we care for, it's the greatest cause that I know.''
Except, of course, answering all those hard-hitting questions like his favorite and least favorite vegetable.
''The favorite vegetable is spinach,'' Luck said. ''Least favorite vegetable are bell peppers. I'm not a fan of bell peppers.''