NFL UK Fan Question and Answer night with Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck on stage watched by the NFL UK's Neil Reynolds
Andrew Luck on stage watched by the NFL UK’s Neil Reynolds

A full transcript now follows of the NFL UK Andrew Luck ‘Fan Question and Answer’ which took place at the Mermaid Theatre, Friday 24 May 2013:

Neil Reynolds, Sky Sports NFL presenter and broadcaster introduced the event.

“There are 600 people inside here and thousands more who wanted to get in – this is the most popular event the NFL UK has put on.”

Neil then introduced a special video that the Indianapolis Colts gave him.

“We reached out to the Colts to ask if they could provide a video for tonight and they came back with something that Chuck Pagano had specially made; it’s only for the Colts players and coaches – ahead of team meetings. We were told not to broadcast it anywhere except here.”

The video started with Pagano -“everything we do is for winning” and that the Colts will play to win “11 on 11 down after down”.

The night then started with a 10-minute question session from fans, which repeated throughout the night. 

Question: Welcome to England – it must be great to see so many fans here in different jerseys?

Andrew Luck: It’s great, I remember being a kid and my Dad working for NFL Europe and having some long nights with him complaining that no-one was showing up (to the matches). It’s really cool – I appreciate you all turning up.

Q: A video then played of the Indianapolis Colts past season, featuring Chuck Pagano heavily.

AL: This video shows the season; not a normal season. For me personally it was a whirlwind year, the circumstances that Pagano was talking about and his personal bout with leukaemia – his personal leadership was great.

We had a lot of rookies there. We had no clue what we were doing, we just went out, but we had someone like Reggie Wayne come out and teach us to walk.

I was at training camp and the speed of the team was impressive.

To all the coaching staff I give credit; they trusted us to go and perform – Chuck Pagano, and Bruce Arians believes I can run his offence, but like all team sports there is accountability, to the linemen, to the running backs, to the defence.

Question from Matt, a 49ers fan. I watched you a lot whilst at college where you were coached by Jim Harbaugh, what is he like? Crazy?

AL: You’re right – he’s crazy, absolutely amazing to play for, everything is a competition whether you are in a meeting or in the weights room. We even had a competition to name his fourth-born kid!

Q: Bruce Arians has now gone to Arizona, what will it be like next season without him?

Selfishly, I was upset he left. I worked with Pep Hamilton at Stanford so I am lucky I don’t have to learn a new system.

When I left Stanford it was like learning a new language; a ram is now a hinge, special is now Jessie. I think there might be a bit more on the running game. Hopefully we will be a dynamic offence.

Q: How do you feel about RGIII beating you to the Heisman Trophy and the NFL Rookie of the Year?

AL: It doesn’t bother me. On the awards night you are disappointed, but I respect Robert a lot. I have never been bothered about personal accolades – I care about my family, team and friends.

Something that is voted on by members of the media… (laughs). I have no regrets and I wouldn’t want to do anything differently. I play with the cards I have been dealt.

Q: How will Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin get on at the Miami Dolphins?

AL: I played with him at Stanford, he will do fine; he has played in the PAC-12. We only gave up five (turnovers) in junior year and seven in senior year. He can do everything that is needed to be a great left tackle.

Q: What about the speed in the NFL now?

AL: Much faster, much stronger, you’re not a kid any more. You are the fans, an owner. The length of the season is much longer – 21 games this season, 13-14 at college.

To stay fresh and emotionally rested is tough. There is a ‘rookie wall’ you hit and are unmotivated to work. I had it.

Q: What do players think about playing foreign games, like the ones here in London?

AL: It’s a double-edged sword. As a child of NFL Europe it would be awesome, cool. Logistically as a player is tough, based in London, then to play in the Midwest.

As players why wouldn’t you view it as a good thing to live in one of the greatest cities in the world?

It is the 21st century – crazier things have been done. Speak to Commissioner Goddell (about playing more games out of the USA).

Q: If you could pick any past receiver to throw to who would it be?

AL: Jerry Rice. His consistency was amazing, his career records are impressive. I’ve heard a lot of good stories about him and his work ethic.

Q: Have you had any time working with Matt Hasselbeck?

Matt’s been great. He’s phenomenal – he’s forgotten more about football than I’ve learned. He’s been in different offensive systems. A consummate professional.

If you are the starting QB an understudy sometimes goes behind your back, but he doesn’t. A great addition.

 At this point Andrew plays a ‘name the quarterback’ quiz with a fan on stage.

 Q: Would you like to play in the London game?

AL: Wembley is called ‘The Cathedral of Football’, so it would be cool. I will be there tomorrow for the game (UEFA Champions League Final).

 Q: What is your preparation each week for games?

AL: Off season and in season are different in terms of strength, right now we are lifting, with more running and explosive movement. A lot about being a quarterback is having a good lower body.

We are trying to build that up now, but during the season it is maintenance work, keeping fitness, not adding muscle and staying healthy as you can through the season.

Nutrition is good and we have a good chef. We have breakfast and lunch at the facility each day and every player will find a routine that fits, like an ice tub before and hot room after sessions.

Q: What do you think about the window of time for the pass? You have had a few interceptions.

AL: It’s the nature of the NFL – windows (to pass the ball) are small and defensive backs are some of the quickest people on earth. It’s about learning – how do Dwayne (Allen) and Coby (Fleener) run down the middle of the thing.

Building a rapport during the preseason is key. You need an attitude, you never second guess yourself; if you messed up you messed up, move on to the next play.

The Colts have a great attitude for a quarterback rookie to come in to, it builds confidence. I can do things; I can throw a vertical seam in the alley.

Being able to bounce back from an interception is key. You have to have a short memory, don’t think about it too much – you are on the field again soon.

You are going to make mistakes. If you are going to be affected badly by a bad play you made and go into your shell, then you’re going to have problems.

Q: Do you have a special relationship with your defence who protect you in games?

AL: Defensive lineman make sure you can walk home after the game. We had nice dinners; I won’t tell you how much the bills were. I got them Christmas presents too.

Maybe we will start an organised o-line social every week. I have no kids, so can go out, but we have guys who are 33 years old and have four kids. They’ve got people to look after, not like college where everyone is in the dorm.

Q: What was it like replacing Curtis Painter?

AL: (Laughs, no comment)

Q: You decided to stay at Stanford for the full four years unlike other players.

AL: I came back to school. I wasn’t ready to grow up; I enjoyed college, my friends, Stanford and California.

Q: Did you have any self-doubt when you started your first NFL game at Soldier’s Field against Chicago?

AL: I was like ‘holy shit’ what am I doing? But you get over the ‘star’ aspect of it.

For me it was when I walked into the locker room and Dwight Freeney says ‘hey rook, get over to my locker now’.

It was neat to see Brian Urlacher retiring. I will look back and say it was neat to play against him, but once the ball snaps they are nameless faceless personnel. Not to discredit to them, but you can’t get caught or it would be a disservice to your teammates.

When you start you get ‘welcome to the NFL rook’ and then a bunch of four letter words, some players talk, some don’t.

The nice thing about sports is that you can claim your own personality. You can be the nicest guy and then you put the helmet on you can turn into an animal, a monster.

It is a respite away from life and for the guys that hit; it is almost therapeutic in a backwards way.

Andrew then went through the ‘timeline of a snap’ explaining how he runs a play

Q: How important is footwork as a quarterback?

AL: Half the battle about getting the ball is to give your legs power. A drop back for a right-handed quarterback means you want to get some depth away from the ‘trash’ then crossover, then your third step shot.

I was told to hold the ball like a girl’s hand.

Q: What is the emotion like in the game?

AL: It’s a rollercoaster ride and that’s why you only play once a week.

Q: Do you watch the games back?

AL: You can’t watch the games back, you cannot enjoy them anymore.

Q: How do you feel after a game?

AL: You need a release, whatever happened. I always enjoy dinner after the game with my family if they are in town; I enjoy reading, 15 minutes before bed – no football before bed.

I love watching soccer; I play some FIFA (computer game). I bought the soccer cable package – I am really proud of it.

I am a (Clint) Dempsey supporter, so I am a Tottenham guy right now. I don’t think I am a legit fan though as I followed Fulham a few years ago (when he played there).

Q: How did the team feel when Head Coach Chuck Lagano told you he was battling against cancer and then to go out and win your next match against the Green Bay Packers?

AL: When you put a percentage on someone’s chances of living then you know it is serious. Reggie Wayne wore orange gloves, I think orange is the colour that signifies the battle against leukaemia.

The Packers are a great team, so to get a win against them after that week (the Packers were the first match after Pagano announced his illness) was big.

There is not one thing bought in which we did, we just worked hard and never gave up. We had a young team. We have a good core of veteran leadership; Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, all really awesome and with no egos.

(For example) we were playing poor against Detroit but we got the win (on December 2nd which the Colts won 35-33).

Q: What was it like to win against Miami Dolphins when Chuck Pagano returned to watch the team? (The fan who asked the question also presented Andrew with a British Lions rugby union shirt).

AL: We didn’t know Coach Pagano was going to be there, but we had heard whispers and maybe saw him on the Jumbotron.

He was very frail, he had lost a bunch of weight, but it was a big lift to have him there.

Q: What do you do socially in Indianapolis? There is nothing to do there!

AL: Well, the Lucas Oil Stadium is a great stadium – really family friendly. The folks in the Midwest are really kind and it’s great to live there; it’s so nice.

I love Indy – you’re taking a shot though (laughs), but it’s no London. Chicago is really the big Midwest city.

But Indy has great steakhouses and the big thing is the Indy 500 which is going on now. There are over 250,000 fans watching and it’s a really big deal for city.

They love sports in Indy; currently the Indianapolis Pacers are playing against the Miami Heat (in the NBA basketball play-offs) and are trying to take down the ‘Evil Empire’ in LeBron James (laughs).

Q: After a woman tried out at the NFL Super Combine do you think a woman will ever play in the NFL and not just in the ‘girly’ positions of kicker or punter?

AL: I don’t think Vini (Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri) will agree with that, he will just show you his four Super Bowl rings.

I am not sexist in any way, but I cannot see a woman playing. If they are good enough, then why not?

Actually, I take that statement back, give them the opportunity and if they are good enough then why not?

Q: What was it like to replace Peyton Manning?

AL: I never viewed it as trying to replace Peyton – if you do then you will go crazy. I didn’t make the decision to release Peyton and draft me.

I don’t worry about who I am replacing or who replaces me, I just wanted to realise every kids’ dream of playing in the NFL, and making money doing it! It’s awesome.

I didn’t think about filling anyone’s shoes.

Q: What do you think about the Pro Bowl in Hawaii – is it a bit of holiday for the players?

AL: There are lots of US Army camps there and it’s a great way to engage with the personnel.  You have to remember though that Hawaii doesn’t have a NFL team so it is really neat to play there and show the NFL.

Andrew then started playing (21:12) ‘Finish the Sentence’ with Neil Reynolds.

Q: On where he received the most abuse from fans:

AL: “Baltimore. When you’ve got a father and a son mooning you…then you know. But if you don’t get mooned then it is a sign of disrespect.”

Q: On the best stadium in the NFL:

AL: “Soldier’s Field (Chicago).”

Q: I don’t like playing football when…

AL: “I get hit.”

Q: My English accent is great, for example:

AL: “Bloody hell! (said in a comical ‘British’ accent).”

Q: The biggest trash talker is:

AL: “Clay Matthews doesn’t talk trash, but he talks a lot.”

Q: The song you would like Indianapolis Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay to sing in the locker room is:

AL: “Baby Got Back.”

Q: On team flights, I would never sit next to:

AL: “Cory Redding – he is huge.”

Q: The most diva-ish thing I have done since going pro is:

AL: “I have done a lot of diva things – this is a question you need to ask my girlfriend. Funny story, in London in the off-season I was trying to get into a dance club. I rocked up there and said, I didn’t want to say it but I did, who I was, and the guy said ‘go to the back of the line’ – I will never do that again.”

The ‘Finish the Sentence’ finished.

Q: What did you think about the NFL officials dispute which meant that replacement officials were used at the beginning of the 2012 season?

AL: I didn’t know any differently as they were in my first NFL games. The older guys (players) were not happy; they were hot on that. It came down to safety really.

They did mess that one up pretty bad (by giving a late, incorrect touchdown to the Seattle Seahawks against the Green Bay Packers in September).

I didn’t know anything different – it didn’t matter to me as I was new to the NFL. My Mum could have refereed.

Q: What do you think about the ‘read’ option?

AL: Some say it is a fad and when you look at what happened to RGIII you want to limit your hits.

There is a place where it can be integrated into schemes, but I am not athletic enough.

Q: The Colts brought in Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in January, someone you know very well, to take the position of Bruce Arians, who left to become head coach at the Arizona Cardinals, did you have any say in this?

AL: I was consulted, but he got his job on what he did (at Stanford) and the front office and Mr. (Ryan) Grigson (Colts General Manager) did their job too. I am glad we hired him – we work very well together.

Q: With all the talk about helmet-to-helmet hits, are you worried about your health in the NFL?

AL: Health and especially brain trauma is something that you have to be considerate of. I wear the new helmet, the chin strap and the mouth guard.

The NFL is doing a good job (on health) and it is getting better and as players we hope the league is always working to make the league safer for us.

Being in the 21st century with all the new technology available, there is research to make protective gear and make your brain safe.

Q: What do you remember about being drafted by the Colts?

AL: Well, I knew the call was coming – on my crappy phone (jokes)! I was very excited; I just wanted the chance to play in the NFL. I can’t remember much else.

Q: What tips do you have for a young quarterback?

AL: Practise smart, not hard practise but smart, effective practise. There are great YouTube videos of great throwing. Don’t go out there and do drills and learn bad habits.

Q: What is the weirdest place you have been asked about the NFL Fantasy League?

AL: I hate fantasy football. The worst thing is when you are in the stall (urinal) and someone asks you.

It engages fans into the game in a personal way which is cool, but you get kids coming up to you saying ‘you cost my Great Uncle some points’ – I don’t care about your Great Uncle!

Q: What do you think about the ‘Suck for Luck’ campaign (where teams were trying to lose games at the end of the 2011 season so they could get the first pick for Andrew in the 2012 draft.

AL: The campaign was stupid; it was going on in the midst of our college season so I didn’t care. I wanted to focus on how Stanford could go and win the college championship.

I knew that if I played well enough then I can get a team, but I wasn’t ‘Googling’ cities. I didn’t think I should go to Cleveland so I can see my grandmother more.

I thought the campaign was very shallow and pathetic.

The night then finished and Andrew signed autographs with fans.

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