As expected, Indianapolis chose its successor to Peyton Manning on Thursday, taking the Stanford quarterback No. 1 overall, and setting itself up for two busy draft days as it tries to put a stronger supporting cast around its new franchise quarterback.
The first part was relatively easy.
"It's a new era, it's a new beginning," first-time general manager Ryan Grigson said minutes after the selection. "Really, it's exciting and we got our guy. He's the one we feel is going to take us where we want to go with this thing. He shares the same vision that we all do, so we're excited."
He was projected to be the top player in the 2011 draft but surprised some by returning to school. As a redshirt junior, he had the Cardinal poised to make a national championship run until a November loss to Oregon. And though he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Robert Griffin III, most scouts still ranked Luck the best player in this draft class. That entourage included the Colts, who told Luck he would be the pick last week.
Both grew up with NFL-playing fathers, left their home states to attend college, returned for one more college season when the "experts" thought they should have jumped to the NFL and then finished as Heisman runner-ups. Now both have been taken No. 1 overall by the Colts, and strangely, they'll even have the same tutors. Bruce Arians was Manning's first NFL quarterbacks coach and now he's back as Indy's offensive coordinator, and former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen is now the Colts quarterback coach.
"It is scary how similar it is," Arians said Thursday after a morning mini-camp workout. "Their styles, their personalities, their styles as players, it's all the same."
The biggest difference between Luck and Manning might be their perspective. Luck is more laid back than Manning, something that struck Colts scouts when he decided to throw into the wind during his pro day at Stanford. That decision was one reason the Colts settled on Luck, but it also showed Luck worried about controlling his work environment as Manning often does.
He's expected to be around for next weekend's three-day rookie mini-camp but leagues rules will prevent him from practicing with the team until he completes his classes in early June.
"I know this, at any level, if you don't have a quarterback it's really, really hard to win, especially in the National Football League," coach Chuck Pagano said. "So I'm going to sleep well at night knowing that we have a quarterback for a long time."
If Luck's career follows the same trajectory as Manning's, the Colts will be set at quarterback for another decade.
Luck is scheduled to meet fans and take questions from local reporters for the first time Friday afternoon at his new home, Lucas Oil Stadium.
He is probably more interested in finding out who his new teammates will be.
Indy has nine more picks during draft weekend, with two Friday and seven Saturday including the draft's final pick, No. 253. It's the first time since 1967 that a non-expansion team had had both the first and last picks of the draft. Houston had that rare feat in its expansion season of 2002.
What Indy does with their other picks is anybody's guess.
The Colts need help at almost every position on offense, and Pagano is looking for size and depth on defense so he can run his preferred 3-4 scheme rather than Indy's traditional 4-3. He's already moved Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis to linebacker and the Colts' other Pro Bowl end, Dwight Freeney, was playing both defensive end and linebacker at Thursday's workout.
Indy went from Super Bowl contender to 2-14 without Manning last season, prompting owner Jim Irsay to embark on a major rebuilding project.
He cleaned house in the front office and on the coaching staffs in January, then started making player moves in March.
The Colts released Manning on March 7 rather than paying him $28 million. Two days later, Indy cut defensive captains Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt and former Pro Bowlers Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai. They lost longtime center Jeff Saturday and emerging receiver Pierre Garcon in free agency and even dipped into free-agency to improve a leaky defense and an unproven offensive line.
But the biggest challenge in 2012, like it was in 1998, will be breaking in a new quarterback.
"I think you have to keep it simple, keep it in Technicolor," Arians said. "Guys like Peyton and Ben (Roethlisberger) are like piranhas in that they eat it up and make it work."
Luck threw for 35 touchdowns last season - breaking his school record of 32 in 2010 - and eclipsed Elway's career record (77) at Stanford with 80 touchdown passes in only three seasons. 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 2011.
And 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.
Of course, there's more to Luck than football, too.
"Andrew and Robert Griffin are remarkable college athletes and remarkable men," NCAA President Mark Emmert told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "They're pretty good role models for what college athletes should be, and they're pretty good players, too. They're going to be fun to watch and if they want to become a lawyer and an architect, that's going to be pretty fun to watch, too."
But Luck's first priority is learning enough about the offense to start winning right away.
"He doesn't need anybody to hold him by the hand at all," Grigson said. "He is ready. He is mature beyond his years. He is extremely intelligent, and I feel he is ready on a lot of different levels."
The choice means Indy has a rare opportunity to transition from one star quarterback to another.
"It's huge," Arians said. "To have that quality of a person coming into this city and keep this proud franchise rolling, I don't remember that ever happening before."