- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2012

Robert Griffin III wants you to understand, despite the $35 commemorative T-shirt the Washington Redskins are selling and despite the national telecast, it’s not Andrew Luck against him Saturday afternoon. He will play against the Indianapolis Colts‘ defense in his home debut, and he’ll be on the sideline when Luck faces the Redskins‘ defense.

But the two rookie franchise quarterbacks will come together at FedEx Field in a matchup that tests the bounds of intrigue for a preseason game. If both develop into the quality players their employers project, Saturday’s game could be considered the beginning of their storied run.

“You’ve got the top two guys in the draft,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Anytime that happens, you know it’s a special game. It’s the third [preseason] game, so we’re going to be getting a lot of snaps. It’s going to be kind of game speed out there.”

Griffin and Luck have different personalities. Griffin loves the attention and already has established a national profile through various marketing opportunities. Luck is quiet and a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight.

The two faces of the NFL’s next generation are dissimilar in that regard, but they’ve been linked for years now and will be forever because of their draft status in April.

Their paths first crossed as high school recruits out of Texas. Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh envisioned Luck and Griffin in a two-quarterback system that would outclass all opposition. It turns out Harbaugh was on to something with those two.

Luck was the valedictorian at his high school in Houston and was the size of a prototypical quarterback. Griffin was a bit smaller, but he had All-America track speed and ranked seventh in his high school class in Copperas Cove, about 31/2 hours northwest of Houston.

Luck committed to Stanford first, though, and Griffin knew how highly Luck was regarded as a recruit. He didn’t want to split time with anyone, so he committed to Houston and later followed coach Art Briles to Baylor. The rest is Heisman history — Griffin won it last December and Luck finished second.

The order was reversed on draft day in April after the Redskins did their due diligence on both prospects. In a 48-hour span in late March, coach Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and owner Daniel Snyder jetted across the country to attend both quarterbacks’ on-campus pro days and dine with them.

“I sure liked [Luck],” Shanahan said. “After all that hype, you’ve got to get it done on the football field. You like guys that are very sharp and enjoy the game. I had a chance to spend time around him and Robert, and I felt great no matter what direction Indianapolis decided to go in the draft, we’d be in good shape.”

Redskins undrafted rookie linebacker Donnell Holt played three games against Luck while he was at the University of California. He experienced first-hand what Shanahan came to learn by studying Luck.

“When they say there’s no negatives about him, there’s really no negatives about him,” Holt said. “I think the biggest thing is he’s able to adjust on the run. Whatever we throw at him, we might get him in the first quarter, but eventually he’ll pick it up and he’ll find a way to win. He’s a winner.”

Hall has watched bits of Luck’s preseason game tape and knows Luck’s reputation as a smart quarterback. He lamented the fact Luck and the Colts played last week against Pittsburgh, which runs the same defense as the Redskins.

“He’s probably going to be a little more comfortable than we like,” Hall said. “But we’ll still try to confuse him a little bit and get after him.”

The final score Saturday won’t be isn’t as important as how much Griffin and Luck learn and grow from the game. And maybe in a decade or so this game will stand as a short chapter in a tale of parallel, successful careers.

“I think I’ll leave the talking about me and him and comparing everything to you guys,” Griffin said. “I definitely look forward to playing the guy throughout my career. I think it will be exciting matchups every time we face each other. I never wish any quarterback any harm. We’re all trying to make it in this life and make it in this league, and I wish the best for him.”