FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold remembers sitting at home in Southern California watching Andrew Luck sling the football all over the fields of the Pac-12 for Stanford.
The young quarterback was a freshman in high school in 2012, when Luck became the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and the future of the franchise for the Indianapolis Colts.
More than six years later, Darnold is in the same spot with the New York Jets. And, now he’ll get a chance to face Luck on the same field Sunday.
“From watching him in the past, first of all he’s such a bright dude in general and you can see how he takes that to the football field,” Darnold said Wednesday. “So it’s really cool to be able to watch him play.”
While Luck is 29 and Darnold just 21, there are some comparisons when it comes to poise and calm under fire that are strong attributes of both quarterbacks.
They are also the respective faces of their franchises, and Darnold has seen Luck deal with that responsibility over the past few years.
“To see him get drafted and to see what he’s been able to do for the Colts and to see what he’s been able to do for that organization, yeah, he’s been banged up, but he’s a great player,” Darnold said.
“We know our defense has their hands full, but it’s also going to be a dogfight for us, too, because they have a great defense. We’re really looking forward to the challenge though, knowing how great of a quarterback Andrew is.”
Luck missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and has been thrust right back into running the pass-heavy offense of the Colts . The veteran threw 121 passes in a five-day span last week in losses to Houston and New England, appearing at times as though he never missed a beat.
The Colts quarterback is also known to be able to make plays with his feet while playing smartly — characteristics that have some comparing Darnold to Luck.
“Yeah, he definitely has more years of experience, but I can see it,” Darnold said. “He likes to extend plays, but at the same time he likes to just hang in there and deliver the ball on time and accurately. Yeah, I can see some similarities.”
Colts coach Frank Reich knows a lot about the quarterback position, having played in the NFL for 14 years — many of them as the backup to Jim Kelly in Buffalo.
He, too, sees some of the same things others have been saying about Darnold and Luck.
“It feels like to me a little bit of the same personality,” Reich told reporters during a conference call. “It’s not too big from the standpoint of not only intellectually, but just for lack of a better word ’emotionally.’ It’s not too big. The game’s not too big.
“And physically, being able to make the throws and some of the athleticism.”
Darnold didn’t necessarily model himself after Luck, but he saw plenty of the former Cardinal quarterback playing his USC Trojans while he was growing up.
“That was when (Jim) Harbaugh was doing his thing with Andrew,” Darnold said. “I got to watch him a lot and how they dominated for a little bit up there in the north. It was really fun to watch and really cool to see Andrew Luck dissect defenses at such a young age. It was really fun and kind of inspiring to me.”
Darnold has had an up-and-down first five games of his NFL career. He has seven touchdown passes and six interceptions, and his 55.7 percent completion rate and 77.2 quarterback rating rank near the bottom of the league.
But, both coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates have been happy with Darnold’s consistent progress during the early part of the season. In New York’s 34-16 win over Denver last Sunday , Darnold threw three TD passes, including a perfectly placed 76-yard TD toss to Robby Anderson that showed the young QB can stretch the field a little, too.
“I feel good every week,” Darnold said. “For me, especially at this position and at this high of a level, you’ve just got to really just stay the course.”
NOTES: RB Isaiah Crowell did not practice because of what Bowles said was a “sore” ankle. Crowell was selected as the AFC’s offensive player of the week after rushing for a franchise-record 219 yards last Sunday. … CB Trumaine Johnson (quadriceps), CB Buster Skrine (concussion), WR-KR Andre Roberts (elbow/foot), C Spencer Long (knee/finger), LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (foot) and WR Charone Peake (hamstring) also didn’t practice. Bowles ruled out Peake for the game against Indianapolis. … WR Terrelle Pryor (groin), S Marcus Maye (ankle/foot) and TE Neal Sterling (concussion) were all limited.