Manning, Luck are a lot alike, or not

The quarterback comparison between the Broncos' Peyton Manning and Colts' Andrew Luck is inevitable and continual, especially as they prepare to meet again Sunday night.

When you really think about it, the Indianapolis ColtsAndrew Luck and Denver BroncosPeyton Manning have a lot in common.

Then again, they’re don’t.

Luck plays for the Colts. Manning put the Indianapolis Colts on the NFL map. OK, big difference there.

But both quarterbacks had fathers who played the same position, Oliver Luck and Archie Manning. Check.

“They don’t take anything for granted and obviously their dads did a phenomenal job with both of them,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday.

Styles of play? Well, Manning isn’t a scrambler, although he would probably be quick to remind you of that 33-yard TD off a naked bootleg at Buffalo in 2001. He called that an “Archie Manning Special,” where he didn’t tell a soul what he was going to do, not his linemen nor running back Edgerrin James, who was expecting to get the handoff and run right.

That play aside, Manning doesn’t have the wheels of Luck, who consistently buys time with his legs and makes something out of nothing to run for first downs. He runs for TDs, too. The lasting image of his scoop and score off a fumble in the miraculous comeback playoff victory over Kansas City went viral last January. One creative mind photo-shopped a cape on Superman as he stretched that ball to the goal line.

Oh, and Luck is decidedly different when it comes to tackling. The third-year pro acts as if every interception is his opportunity to show he’s a football player and run down the defender who picked him off and ticked him off. Manning, well, let’s just say the 17th-year pro learned a long time ago that sometimes you have to protect yourself and live to play another play.

Still, they both have a high football IQ and are typically the first to arrive for work and last to leave, spending countless hours studying film, as Pagano and Broncos coach John Fox reminded in conference calls to advance Sunday night’s season opener in the Mile High City. Manning’s old center, Jeff Saturday, said he never saw a guy work harder. Luck’s teammates say the same about him.

Passion, well, that’s a given, too. Although they express themselves differently on the field. Luck has an emphatic spike when he’s really excited after an important score. Manning has the quick fist pump. But not all the time. Sometimes, he’s just like Johnny Unitas, no reaction at all, as if to say, “Knock off the TD celebration and act like you expected to end up there.”

They both take losing hard. They hate losing more than they love winning. Luck said that in his first conference call after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2012. Manning has shown it, especially in his rookie year after also being drafted No. 1 overall in 1998. Some of his teammates would be showered and out the door after a loss, but Manning would still be sitting in his locker, motionless, uniform still on, just staring down, trying to stomach an unacceptable outcome.

Manning grew up in New Orleans and Luck in Houston. Far apart, indeed, but Luck didn’t mind going that distance to attend the Manning Passing Academy, first as a camper in the eighth grade and then two years as a counselor. So it’s safe to say Luck learned a thing or two from Manning.

But they do differ on facial hair. Luck has the “Neard,” the neck beard that some fans love and others loathe. For this game, though, he shaved it off and is clean cut, just like Manning was in Indy from Day One. And still is.

They both hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else, including coaches. That speaks for itself.

Luck always takes the blame for mistakes, even when it’s not his fault. And Manning, OK, let’s not get carried away. But Manning usually knew how to answer a question without placing blame or accepting it — except for that “I’m trying to be a good teammate here” comment after Pittsburgh abused his offensive line and sacked him into submission in that 2006 upset playoff loss at the RCA Dome.

Luck doesn’t hesitate to donate his time to charities, including IU Health and most recently Riley Hospital. Yet no Indianapolis athlete has ever done more to raise money for important causes than Manning — he still has that St. Vincent Children’s Hospital named after him.

Luck admitted Wednesday, “I’m a pretty boring guy.” His interviews can be a bit flat. Manning is typically amusing in his chats — when talking to reporters about a neck injury update in 2011, he quipped, “I don’t know what HIPPA stands for, but I believe in it.”

But then again, this is still the same guy who in 1999 had to ask his then-girlfriend, future wife Ashley how to open a can of soup. Only a nerd has trouble with that, right?

That said, Manning can be incredibly entertaining off the field. His “Saturday Night Live” gig as 2007 host is a classic and still on YouTube. And Manning rakes in the endorsement deals, as much as a reported $15 million in a year in the past. Luck, well, did he do one endorsement as a rookie? If so, nobody remembers. And as far as comedy bits, Luck just appeared in that “Cheeseburger In A Coconut” video on YouTube. He’s so silly, he’s kind of funny. But nowhere near Manning’s class.

So where does that leave this inevitable and continual comparison, in a week when every conceivable question has been asked yet again about how the two of them are so connected?

Where we started. They have several similarities, but can be distinctly different.

Asked Wednesday to compare himself to Luck when he was in his third year, Manning said, “It’s been so long ago, it would be really hard to draw on too many memories for that. I certainly think that most quarterbacks would tell you that they feel better each year than they were the year before, especially if they’re having a returning system and whatnot. I think experience is your best teacher.”

Luck doesn’t have Manning’s experience — nobody else who has ever played the game has won five NFL MVPs. But perhaps the most genuine quality about the former Manning Passing Academy counselor is he’s wise beyond his 24 years. He’s never allowed himself to be swept away by all the hype about replacing a legend.

Luck just strives to be the best he can be. Same as Manning, after all these years.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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