Nearly 30 years later, the Indianapolis Colts organization will finally get what they want from Stanford; a franchise quarterback.
Thursday night the Colts will draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. The Colts made the difficult decision to part ways with their longtime franchise quarterback, Peyton Manning, and have been expected to select Luck since it became clear they would own the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Manning signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos.
“In fairness to him, in the whole process and the media gauntlet he’s going to be enduring over the next couple days, I thought it was the right thing to do to announce we’re going to take him,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said on Tuesday. “I didn’t see the point in prolonging what the world already knew. It’s about Andrew. We wanted to do the right thing by him.”
As fate would have it, the Colts will draft Luck on the 29th anniversary of the franchise drafting another Stanford quarterback with the first overall pick. On April 26, 1983 the Baltimore Colts drafted Stanford’s John Elway despite warnings that he would not sign a contract with their franchise. The Colts had gone 0-8-1 in the 1982 season and Elway did not believe he could have a successful career with such a franchise. Elway was not particularly fond of Colts head coach Frank Kush, who was known as a harsh coach behind the scenes.
Elway threatened to pursue a career in baseball if the Colts did not trade him to another team. Elway had played a couple seasons of minor league ball in the New York Yankees organization as a right fielder and pitcher after being drafted by the Yankees in the 1981 MLB draft six spots ahead of Tony Gwynn. Rather than try to convince Elway to remain with the Colts and go through a drawn out contract negotiation, the Colts traded who they thought would be their franchise quarterback to the Denver Broncos.
You really could not script this any better.
Of course, the Colts have drafted quarterbacks with the first overall pick two other times. The first came in the 1955 draft with the selection of Oregon’s George Shaw. Shaw was quickly named the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Colts but in the 1956 season Shaw suffered a broken leg, forcing the Colts to go with their back-up quarterback. That back-up quarterback turned out to be Johnny Unitas. Shaw quickly became the back-up for a couple of seasons in Baltimore before getting a chance to move on to one-year stints with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. In 1962 Shaw played his final year of professional football. Naturally, he signed on with the AFL’s Denver Broncos.
The other came in 1990 when the Colts drafted Jeff George out of Illinois. George lasted just four years in Indianapolis before being moved to the Atlanta Falcons as the Colts were shaking things up and owned two of the top five picks in the 1994 NFL Draft. The Colts selected running back Marshall Faulk with the second overall pick and linebacker Trev Alberts with the fifth pick. The selection of Alberts led to a heated exchange between ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Colts general manager Bill Tobin on live television. Kiper suggested that drafting a linebacker was a poor selection when Trent Dilfer was available. Tampa Bay drafted Dilfer one pick later. As for George, he would go on to play 17 seasons in the NFL with seven different teams, including two tours with the Oakland Raiders.
George did not play for the Broncos.
Kevin is a national college football writer for nextooze.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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