FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Their respective paths to the NFL stand in stark contrast, but they share quite a bit in common.
Much more than the number on the back of their jerseys, which, incidentally, is the number of years separating them in age.
Through the first 34 starts of their careers, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who waited 199 picks to hear his name called in 2000, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the first pick in the 2012 draft, each won 23 games.
Like Brady, Luck has been at his best with the odds stacked against him, as he already has eight fourth-quarter comebacks to his credit, with a total of 11 game-winning drives.
Luck's latest performance was perhaps his finest yet, as he navigated a 28-point comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round, giving his team an improbable win and setting up a matchup of No. 12s this Saturday night in Foxborough.
And while the game isn't literally a faceoff between Brady and Luck, the younger quarterback conceded on Tuesday that he's used the arc of Brady's career -- which included early success -- as a barometer for himself.
"He has definitely set the standard for success at the quarterback position," Luck said. "The way he handles himself, watching from afar, the competitive nature and basically all the right things he does. Yeah, I guess he is a barometer and he is the standard."
Brady was less inclined to dive into the quarterback versus quarterback dynamics of the game, saying Monday morning in an interview on Boston sports radio WEEI that he hasn't spent any time watching film on Luck, rather focusing his attention on the Colts' defense, led by pass-rushing fiend Robert Mathis.
But from the outside, it's hard not to take note of Luck's early success, which is not a complete surprise after his exceptional college career and the praise he received during the pre-draft process. By most accounts, he was the best quarterback prospect since at least Peyton Manning, if not John Elway, another former Stanford QB.
He's lived up to expectations thus far, with defenses around the league -- including the Patriots' -- taking notice.
"I think he just keeps getting better," safety and defensive captain Devin McCourty said of Luck. "He's able to throw the ball down the field -- really anywhere on the field -- and I think what really makes him good is that he's mobile. … I think everyone already knows he's a really smart guy back there."
"He [puts] a lot of touch on it and he can throw it about as far as he wants to," cornerback Aqib Talib added.
Luck's talent strongly suggests a long and successful career. Games like the one to be played on Saturday night will ultimately help define the narrative of his NFL journey.
In his second season, the first year that he was a starter, Brady guided the Patriots to a win in Super Bowl XXVI, the first of innumerable signature moments in his career.
It was at that point, an early juncture in his football path, that Brady began his ascension in the ranks of the game's best quarterbacks.
Luck has a chance to further his own legacy, taking on a Brady-led team on the road, adverse circumstances for any signal-caller.
For Brady, his stature and legacy are more well-defined. He's already considered one of the best of his era, if not all time. A win on Saturday night would push him one step closer to a fourth Super Bowl win, something that would tie him for the most among starting quarterbacks in NFL history.
So while Luck understandably looks up to Brady in terms of what he has accomplished in his career -- which would enhance the significance of a win for him on Saturday night -- Brady reinforced on Wednesday that playing against a team with an upstart quarterback hasn't influenced his motivation.
"My motivation is pretty simple," he said. "I just try to win, that's what I try to do and try to be part of the reason why we're successful. That's part of doing my job and trying to be the best I can be for the team. It really doesn't have anything to do with anybody on the other team and what their motivation might be.
"To be a professional athlete and to play at this high level with this level of competition, winning is the only thing that's important," he continued. "That's one goal and one objective that I've had for a very long time."