Thousands of Londoners will gather this weekend to gain a first hand look at the work of a former neighbour who has since left the UK, graduated from Stanford and become the highest paid member of his profession at just 26-years-old.
The venue for the exhibition is Wembley, the event is the NFL’s 15th game in London and the subject is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Luck will be one of the most scrutinised players on the field on Sunday, when his Colts take on designated home side Jacksonville Jaguars, largely due to the $140m six-year contract he signed this summer, the most lucrative deal in NFL history.
Yet the 26-year-old will also be of particular interest to the Wembley crowd as a former resident of the Big Smoke with a keen interest in the more familiar kind of football.
Luck’s father Oliver, an NFL quarterback himself, spent his post-playing career working to build a receptive audience for American football in Europe and in particular at his St.John’s Wood home where a primary school aged Andrew was falling in love with soccer.
“We’d always throw the football around at home,” Luck told City A.M. “He was working for NFL Europe so football was still a part of my life but I probably, honestly, watched and played more soccer. I have great memories of London.”
The gridiron home schooling paid off. Handsomely. Long before signing his record nine-figure contract, Luck has been earmarked as special prospect.
After leaving Stanford, Luck was the No1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, chosen by the Colts to replace icon of the sport Peyton Manning, who was allowed to leave after 14 years with the franchise to open up the spot on the roster.
Yet despite the hype, don’t expect to see Luck revving through Regent Street in a gold rimmed Lamborghini this weekend. He may have $140m, but doesn’t even own a smartphone — the quarterback famously prefers his trusty old school flip phone.
“It’s cool, it’s great and it’s awesome,” he understandably replied when asked about the headline-grabbing contract and how it’s changed him. “But I didn’t worry about getting it done too much, it’s just a great next step.
“I feel no different than I did before, it’s part of the job. I don’t have social media, I don’t really read the sports pages. It’s not that hard.”
What you will likely see Luck doing on Sunday is bashing his helmet and muttering to himself on the sidelines, beating himself up for the tiniest of mistakes. This was particularly prevalent last year when injuries restricted him to just seven games — games in which he threw 12 interceptions.
But it’s not the wealth of attention paid to him from outside that triggers the angst. “Pressure from who? The media, the fans? Whatever,” he says.
“External pressure I’ve never really bought into. I put a lot of internal pressure on myself to do well and the team puts a lot of pressure on itself to do well.
“Contract or no contract, I’m definitely not aiming to play like last season. When you miss a bunch of games in the year before, you just can’t wait to get going.”
Luck has shone on return to action this season — despite being statistically put under pressure from defences more than any other quarterback in the NFL — yet the Colts have managed just one win in three.
The Jaguars, even more desperate for a win having lost all three games to date, have the advantage of playing in familiar surroundings — this will be their fourth appearance in four years at Wembley while it is the Colts’ first trip to the stadium.
Luck, though, is familiar. He went to the old Wembley as a boy and has been to the revamped arena to watch soccer twice.
“I’m totally aware the importance of Wembley and its status,” he says. “I’m looking forward to playing.”