BY Tom James
---- — A definite bond exists between Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
First of all, both were first-round selections in last year’s National Football League draft. Luck was the first overall pick while Tannehill was the eighth overall player taken.
They play the same position. And they have similar styles. While Tannehill isn’t quite the runner that his Indianapolis counterpart is, he isn’t adverse to keeping the ball and picking up a few yards if the situation warrants. They are both pretty good athletes in their own right.
Tannehill and Luck are part of one of the stronger quarterback drafts in recent history, along with Washington’s Robert Griffin III and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.
Both grew up in football-crazy Texas, where they each earned quite a following. Tannehill (Big Spring) opted to stay in state to go to college, attending Texas A&M. Luck (Houston), meanwhile, headed west to Stanford.
And, finally, both have coaches who worked with them in college serving as their NFL offensive coordinators. Miami’s Mike Sherman was the head coach at A&M when Tannehill played there. Pep Hamilton, who is in his first year with the Colts, was Luck’s position coach and offensive coordinator at Stanford.
While Tannehill and Luck aren’t close personally, they got to know each other fairly well in the weeks and months prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. The pair had initially became acquainted a year earlier when both attended the Manning Passing Academy.
“Just a great guy, great competitor and a great quarterback,” the Dolphins signal caller said this week during a teleconference with the Colts media.
“I admire [him] a lot. He can make all the throws. He’s really good in the pocket after contact, shrugging off defensive linemen. I can’t tell you how many times last year during our game that he was able to stand strong in the pocket and he may be falling out but get the ball out and somehow get the first down. That’s something I admire about him.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I have a lot of respect for Ryan. A lot of us seem to be from Texas, or have Texas ties. I’ve had high school teammates that played with Ryan at [Texas] A&M that talk about him. I’ve got to meet him a couple of times at various functions,” Luck said earlier this week.
“I’ve always been impressed with him as a football player. To get to know him as a person was great, a phenomenal guy. I guess it’s a good quarterback class to be a part of.”
Oh yes, that 2012 NFL quarterback draft class. Luck tends to shy away from talk about the group.
“It is a bit of a fraternity. I know fans and media love to have those sub-plots and create a little more of that dynamic than is there,” he admitted. Tannehill, though, tends to embrace the conversation.
“It’s definitely fun to play against these guys. I played against Andrew and Russell last year and I had a lot of fun, battled it out with both of them,” he said. “We got to know each other a little bit throughout the draft process, you’re around each other, so I’ll always have a ton of respect for those guys and keep up with them as well.”
So does a rivalry exist between all of the quarterbacks?
“It could be fun. The NFL is a tough league and every week’s going to be a tough game. When you play some people you know, it makes it makes it that much more competitive and that much more fun at the end of the day,” Tannehill admitted.
And what about the recent group of Texas-bred quarterbacks who have made a name for themselves in the NFL? Guys like Vince Young, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Griffin III, Tannehill and Luck?
“Well, there’s a lot of people playing and that helps. It’s a large state with a lot of guys playing, so the pool size helps. But I think the seven-on-seven in the summer is the biggest thing. It’s so big right now,” the Miami quarterback said. “Almost every high school is running a spread offense or a version of spread offense, so kids are getting a lot of throws and they’re playing year-round.”
due to seven-on-seven.”
Tannehill and Luck are both operating, for the most part, the same type of offensive systems that they grew accustomed to at the college level.
“It’s a huge help, really. Coming in, you’re not having to learn an entire new playbook. The foundation of the offense is going to be the same. You’re going to have a lot of new things, new terminology, new concepts, things like that but the foundation of the offense is going to be the same,” the Dolphins quarterback explained.
“That really helped me early on and has me really comfortable at this point having run these same plays for four-plus years now. I’ve had a lot of reps, maybe not in NFL games, but I’ve had a lot of reps at the plays and it helps to settle in.”
The Colts quarterback would tend to agree.
“It’s been great,” Luck said during training camp. “I’m fortunate not to have to learn a completely new offense. I’ve got a lot of residual information floating around from Stanford, and it all came back quickly. But just knowing his personality, knowing how to communicate with him, that’s almost as important as the football side of things.”