It will be a reunion of sorts when the Indianapolis Colts come to town in Week 3. Expect to see quite a few familiar faces and relationships renewed both on and off the field.
First, there's the teacher and pupil. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck comprised what was, perhaps, the premier quarterback-coach combo in college football from 2009-10. At the time, Harbaugh was in the middle of reviving a Cardinal team that floundered for the greater part of the decade. However, the transformation would not be complete without highly-touted quarterback prospect Andrew Luck, who Harbaugh successfully recruited out of Stratford High School in Houston, Texas.
Together, they duo carved out a record of 20 wins to just 6 losses and an Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech.
After the 2010 season, Harbaugh left for greener pastures, accepting a San Francisco 49ers head coaching position left vacant by the firing of Mike Singletary. Luck would stay at Stanford for another year before entering the 2012 NFL Draft where he was made the top overall selection by the Colts (there's a fascinating backstory with this that I've written about before).
PASADENA CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of Stanford celebrates a touchdown with Andrew Luck #12 for a 35-0 lead over UCLA at the Rose Bowl on September 11 2010 in Pasadena California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
So far, each has experienced a great deal of success at their respective positions on the next level. This will be their first on-field encounter since their days at Stanford, but this time around, they will be competing against each other on opposite sidelines. Harbaugh might know Luck better than Luck knows himself, and you better believe he'll be spending plenty of time cooking up the defensive game plan with Vic Fangio. Fangio, who is now the defensive coordinator in San Francisco, served Stanford at the same coaching position in 2010.
Other notable 'ties that bind':
- Coby Fleener, Luck's best friend and roommate at Stanford, followed him to the Colts. The tight end was selected one round later with the 34th overall pick.
- Ricky Jean-Francois was a serviceable backup in San Francisco before signing a $22 million contract with the Colts this past offseason. He was also quite a character in the locker room. On a somewhat related note, I was pretty stoked when he responded to my Instagram comment (forgive my shameless self-promotion):
- After not getting picked up in the 2012 NFL Draft, Northern Illinois receiver Nathan Palmer signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free agent. "NaPalm" was a bit of a fan favorite during the offseason and eventually landed on the Niners' practice squad. However, in late September that year, Palmer was signed by the Colts.
Aubrayo Franklin was the starting nose tackle in San Francisco from 2007-10. He spent some time with the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers before being signed by the Colts in 2013. His last two destinations can be attributed to...
- ...defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who was let go by the Chargers after an underwhelming 2011 season. He was brought on board shortly after by the Colts where he served in the same capacity. Manusky's defensive unit in 2012 ranked 26th in the league in total yards allowed and 21st in points allowed per game (24.2). Before his stint with the Chargers, Manusky was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2007-10.
- Current Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is the younger brother of Niners' Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis. Vontae was drafted by the Miami Dolphins out of the University of Illinois in the 2009 NFL Draft--three years after Vernon was drafted by San Francisco.
- Earlier in the offseason, Pep Hamilton was named the Colts' new offensive coordinator after Bruce Arians, the interim head coach in lieu of Chuck Pagano, took the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. Hamilton previously served as the Niners' quarterbacks coach in 2006 where he worked with Alex Smith. Hamilton coached receivers at Stanford in 2010 and most recently coached the offense and quarterbacks from 2011-12. Of course, he will be reunited with Luck in Indianapolis.
The Colts were one of the best feel-good stories in all of sports last season. Pagano was lost early on after being diagnosed with leukemia. Luck was a rookie quarterback expected to fill the shoes of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning--with a squad that was 2-14 just a year before. Despite all of these things, the Colts made an impressive late-season surge to reach the playoffs.
No one will dispute that they are one of the league's up-and-coming teams, and they certainly won't be one to sleep on come Week 3.
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