INDIANAPOLIS — The secret is out.
Andrew Luck will be the Indianapolis Colts’ new quarterback.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation said Thursday that the Colts have notified Luck that they plan to take the Stanford quarterback with the No. 1 pick in next week’s NFL draft barring some unforeseen event between now and then. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not publicly disclosed its plan.
It’s hardly a surprise that the Colts are turning to Luck as the cornerstone of their massive rebuilding project. Luck was projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft before returning to school for his fourth season. He gave up his final year of college eligibility to enter this year’s draft, which was dubbed the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes from the start.
Contract negotiations are not expected to begin before the draft, the person familiar with the situation told the AP. Will Wilson, Luck’s agent, did not immediately respond to phone messages or text messages Thursday.
“We’ve exhausted the process,” new Indy general manager Ryan Grigson told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve pretty much made up our minds and we’re going to go from there. We feel good about it and we’ll go from there.”
Grigson acknowledged that the Colts made their decision “a little while” ago, though he declined to say whether the Colts would take Luck or Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
The secret lasted less than 24 hours. ESPN.com first reported that the Colts’ had informed Luck they will take him. That would likely send Griffin to the Redskins, who traded a first- and second-round pick this year and first-rounders each of the next two years to St. Louis to move into the No. 2 slot.
Luck faces a challenging situation in Indy, which went 2-14 last season after Peyton Manning was lost with a season-ending injury that required neck surgery.
Manning was released March 7 and eventually signed with Denver, and Luck will now serve as Manning’s successor.
He may get off to a rough start through no fault of his own.
“I believe Andrew may struggle early simply because of the surrounding cast playing with him,” said Colts former vice chairman Bill Polian, acknowledging both rookies will have their share of problems in 2012. “It was nowhere near where Peyton’s was, and he went 3-13. I think Andrew will struggle more because of the receivers around him. Only Reggie (Wayne) and Austin (Collie) are back.”
Still, Luck was the obvious choice as Manning’s successor all along.
A pro-style pocket quarterback, Luck threw for 35 touchdowns last season — breaking his school record of 32 a year ago — and eclipsed John Elway’s career record (77) at Stanford with 80 touchdown passes in only three years.
He finished with 3,170 yards passing, a 70 percent completion percentage and only nine interceptions without the benefit of an elite wide receiver. In a 41-38 Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, Luck was brilliant again, going 27 of 31 passing for 347 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
And while the Colts sent a larger contingent of scouts to Griffin’s pro day, it was Luck who had a private workout for the Colts and traveled to Indianapolis for a personal interview. Griffin did not, Grigson explained, partly because the Colts had already made their decision.
What the Colts will get with Luck is a skilled player who’s had an extra year to mature from 2011, when even then he might have been drafted ahead of Auburn star Cam Newton.
“I tend to think because of my position as an AD at a Division I school that spending a full four years is going to benefit almost every player, not just from a football standpoint but walking away with a degree is important in today’s world, too,” West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, Andrew’s father, said Wednesday. “The emotional development that comes with completing the cycle with the class that you came in with, I think that last aspect is very special.
“Plus, I think the vast majority of cases, it’s beneficial to come back and play that third and fourth year in many cases,” he added.
Luck will be far from the only new face in Indy.
Grigson replaced the father-son front office tandem of Bill and Chris Polian in January, then brought in new coach Chuck Pagano to replace the fired Jim Caldwell. Pagano has almost an entirely new staff, and some players have even found new spots for their lockers.
The biggest change, of course, is not seeing No. 18 around town.
Two days after Manning’s release, the Colts cut other veterans including defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt, Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai. Longtime center Jeff Saturday, receiver Pierre Garcon and backup tight end Jacob Tamme all left in free agency.
Now, the Colts are looking to start fresh.
“Barring any unforeseen problem we’re pretty sure what direction we want to go. Barring any unforeseen event, we know what we’re doing,” Grigson said.