BY Tom James
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — It’s safe to say that a pair of Seattle Seahawks starters -- wide receiver Doug Baldwin and cornerback Richard Sherman -- know a lot about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. After all, they were college teammates at Stanford.
And Russell Wilson is very familiar with Luck, as both were members of last year’s celebrated National Football League quarterback draft class.
Baldwin, in particular, is a big fan of the Colts’ second-year signal caller.
“I’m on record as saying that I believe Andrew Luck can be the greatest quarterback to ever played the game of football,” he said earlier this week.
“Andrew is everything that you want in a quarterback. Both a pocket passer and a guy who is able to make plays on the run with his legs. He’s smart, highly intelligent. I’ve seen him do some unbelievable things that I still can’t believe that a quarterback was able to do in practice at Stanford and obviously in games. I have tremendous respect for that guy.”
A two-year starter at Stanford, Baldwin knows a good quarterback when he sees one. He has quickly bonded with Wilson in Seattle and is the Seahawks’ leading receiver through the first four games (12 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown).
As an undrafted rookie in 2011, Baldwin led Seattle with 51 receptions for 788 yards and four touchdowns. That total dropped to 29 catches for 366 yards and three TDs last year.
But as close as he’s gotten with his current quarterback, it hasn’t changed his thoughts on Luck. Baldwin certainly isn’t surprised by the early success that the Colts quarterback has enjoyed over the last year.
“He took control of a team that really didn’t have much around him and he took them to the playoffs,” he said. “They didn’t have a defense and didn’t have a running game. But they made it to the playoffs. He had a bunch of fourth quarter victories.”
The respect is more than mutual.
“I was fortunate to get along with both [Baldwin and Sherman] very well,” Luck told Seattle-area media last week. “I remember in Doug’s last year Stanford really developing a good football rapport with him. I always admired his work ethic and obviously he’s got a lot of physical traits that go well with being an NFL player. I admired his work ethic and football smarts.”
One thing that the Indianapolis quarterback recalls about his former collegiate receiver was his drive to succeed.
“Doug plays with two chips on his shoulders,” Luck smiled. “I remember feeling really comfortable with Doug in his last year of throwing balls up there and saying, ‘Hey Doug, go make a play.’ He had a phenomenal senior year [at Stanford] and it was fun for me to see that a be a small part of that.”
He added that Sherman -- who made the switch from receiver to cornerback -- made quite an impression as well.
“Great football player. I always thought he was a great teammate in the locker room. When he was still on offense, I was always nervous as a freshman throwing the ball to Richard Sherman because he was so fast. He could run like the win, and you didn’t want him to outrun your arm and make you look like a bad quarterback. Then going to defense and how quickly he assimilated was very impressive.”
Now considered one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL, the physically-talented and physically-imposing (6-foot-3, 195-pounds) has recorded 14 total interceptions in little over two seasons in the league.
“I always knew he was a great athlete. Once he made that switch, I think he handled that switch very well, and well all knew that with time he would just keep getting better and better,” Luck said.
“He’s got such a good football IQ, and I think playing offense helped him in that whole transition. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. I’m sure he’s still tirelessly working to get better at his craft. He was always a very hard worker and I admired that about him.”
A year ago, Sherman told Seattle media that Wilson -- the Seahawks’ young quarterback -- was better than Luck or Washington’s Robert Griffin III. That’s understandable. He was backing a current teammate.
But neither signal caller wants today’s game to be a referendum on who’s better right now or who has the brightest NFL future.
“I guess we are in somewhat of a fraternity together by virtue of coming out the same year. I think fans and media make that connection. That’s the great part of sports. You find these sub-plots and storylines. I know when I watch other sports, I love hearing about it,” Luck admitted.
“I think from our perspective, we were drafted in the same class together [and] there happened to be a bunch of quarterbacks and a bunch of us had some early success. I do try to root for the other guys, having gotten to know them.”
Wilson would prefer to talk about what happens on the field rather than any perceived rivalry with the Colts quarterback.
“It’s always special. I think this quarterback class is going to be really, really good one day. We have a long ways to go. It’s one of those things that when you look back at it, hopefully 15, 20 years from now, hopefully, our goal is to be one of the best quarterback classes to ever play the game. We have a long ways to go, man. It’s one of those things that you just take one day at a time,” he said late last week.
“To be able to play against Andrew Luck, it’s going to be a fun game. It’s going to be a great opportunity obviously. I have a lot of respect for him and how he plays the game. He shows so much leadership and so much poise out there. So that’s the great thing about him. For me, at the end of the day, we’re playing the Indianapolis Colts. We’re going to have to play our best football. That’s the challenge for us this week. We’re going to have to play a great football game.”