Andrew Luck, RG3 capable of reaching spectacular potential

LANDOVER, Md. -- Andrew Luck stepped up once and, the pocket collapsing around him, again, keeping his head up and pointed downfield. Then, in a spot where even a 10-year NFL quarterback might scurry to check down, Luck caught rookie T.Y. Hilton with a step on his man down the left sideline, wound up with his feet still going forward, and stuck the ball between Hilton's hands halfway through the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown.

A couple hours later, in a FedEx Field interview room following the Washington Redskins' 30-17 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts, the normally agreeable Luck had a rare edgy exchange when asked about the $35 T-shirts sold to promote his so-called showdown with fellow super-prospect Robert Griffin III -- "If somebody can make money off of that, then good for them."

And in those moments, Luck vividly illustrated why he and RG3 seem so uniquely qualified to compartmentalize being two of the biggest names in the NFL before playing a meaningful snap in the league.

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Each is, in football coachspeak, unaffected.

Just as Luck knew what he had to do to avoid the rush coming at him while maintaining an ability to focus on and process what was happening 40 yards away, he, and Griffin too, came into Saturday's game knowing and acknowledging all the overbearing noise around them without letting it change their approach. Going forward, that gives both these guys the best chance to realize their considerable potential, no matter how big a deal we all made this relatively meaningless game.

"I don't think I do it perfectly," Luck said, walking toward the team bus, wearing a plaid shirt and khakis with a backpack slung over his shoulder, looking every bit like the college kid he was a few months ago. "You're human. You get caught up in some things you shouldn't. But having a dad that was in the game, in the league, you understand what it's like. And then, if you're lucky enough to be surrounded by good teammates, they make it much easier. They're keeping you down-to-earth and off your high horse."

That humility might be nice, but what seems more important -- in the case of both players -- is experience.

And it's not football experience, so much as it's life experience.

This trumped-up preseason day-of-reckoning doubled as RG3's first professional game of any kind in front of a home crowd. If you asked many of the 60,000-plus who came out for it, there'd probably be more than a few who didn't know who the ex-Baylor star was one year ago. Now? He's the savior of a proud franchise that's fallen on hard times, and an icon in a major market.

At the end of the afternoon, Robert Griffin III darted over to the north end zone, where his mother and father were waiting. And on what would seem to be a heady day for any family, no one seemed taken aback by any of it. Just as being the son of an NFL quarterback brought a certain level of normalcy to this for Luck, having competed athletically on a national stage since before he became a teenager did the same for Griffin and, by extension, those closest to him.

RG3's rise to prominence since last fall might seem meteoric. But it's not from his personal perspective.

"He's been doing this for quite a while now," said his mother, Jacqueline. "He's been doing AAU track and field, and God has given him many opportunities to continue to climb and prepare for this. And of course, my husband has helped him tremendously as well."

Griffin's dad, Robert Jr., then chimed in, adding, "I always told him, through all his training, to train like you perform. And he had good success with all that training and development. This is just another step in that process."

Luck's process has been different, in that it's played out publicly for quite a while now.

Being the face of Jim Harbaugh's Stanford revival put him on a national stage with college football fans. How his game projected to the next level -- perhaps better than anyone since fellow former Stanford QB John Elway -- drew the eyeballs and curiosity of most NFL followers.

And by the end, he was so good that fans were actively calling for their teams to throw games to get in position to take him. So this stuff, now, isn't exactly new to him.

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"The nice thing was that on campus it wasn't bad at all," said receiver Griff Whalen, his roommate at Stanford and teammate with the Colts now. "You'd be shocked by how opposite-of-crazy it was around him. And then, any time we left, we went anywhere else -- airports, restaurants, anywhere -- people would recognize him. That's where he got to deal with that stuff. ... Some people just have that composure, the ability to handle it. It's something he grew into and became accustomed to."

If this one, like the elder Griffin said was just another step in the process, it had both Luck and Griffin being solid, and spectacular only in short bursts where the natural ability of each would peek its head out to tantalize all those in attendance.

Saturday wasn't a day for referendums. It was more an occasion to celebrate what-could-be for both teams, and the league as a whole. And for these players, it was another day. An exciting one, yes. But not one that was wholly unexpected.

"It's not so much (that we have to) pinch ourselves," Griffin's mom said. "We're just so grateful to be in this position."

And just the same, their son is ready to handle all that goes with being in that position. In fact, as much as anything else, Saturday showed that both these quarterbacks are.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.