The Colts selected the former Stanford quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday night, making him the heir to the throne Peyton Manning vacated when the Colts released him earlier this offseason.
"You don't really replace a guy like that," Luck said. "You can't. You just try to do the best you can. Obviously, he was my hero growing up."
The Stanford quarterback was told by the Colts last week that commissioner Roger Goodell would announce his name first on Thursday night. He got the nod over Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner who was taken second overall by the Washington Redskins. Washington acquired the No. 2 overall pick weeks ago in a trade with the St. Louis Rams.
After being loudly booed at the outset, Goodell told a raucous crowd at Radio City Music Hall that "the season begins tonight, so let's kick if off." Then he did, congratulating Luck while the crowd chanted "RG3, RG3."
Luck left the stage, slapped hands with some fans in Colts shirts and headed to the interview room.
"I realize you could go crazy trying to measure yourself to Peyton Manning every day. That would be an insane way to live," Luck said. "I know his legendary status, really. Huge shoes to try and fill if you're trying to do that. ... If one day I can be mentioned alongside Peyton as one of the football greats, that would be a football dream come true."
To get Griffin, Washington dealt a second-round pick this year and its first-rounders in 2013 and '14 to St. Louis to move up four spots. But they wound up with the Baylor QB who beat out Luck for the Heisman Trophy.
Dressed in a light blue suit that didn't quite mesh with Redskins burgundy and gold -- and wearing socks that fit the team's color scheme and proclaimed "GO CATCH YOUR DREAM" -- Griffin had some trouble getting a Redskins hat over his braids. He ended up wearing it just a tad crooked while he flashed big smiles for photos.
"Go catch that dream -- because a lot of times when you chase something you never get to it," he said. "So if you say, `Hey, I'm going to go catch my dream,' you're already telling yourself that you're going to get it."
RG3 also sang the team's fight song during a conference call:
"Hail to the Redskins! Hail vic-tor-y!" Griffin said. "That's how I felt. It felt that good."
Less than an hour before Goodell began the draft, Cleveland and Minnesota pulled off another trade in what would become a virtual swap shop. The Browns moved up just one spot, from fourth to third, to ensure getting running back Trent Richardson of national champion Alabama. Minnesota received picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds and still was in position to get one of the elite prospects in this draft.
Like Griffin, Richardson was treated with lusty cheers from the crowd. Unlike Griffin, he had less trouble placing the Cleveland hat over his impressive dreads.
"This team really wants me," Richardson said. "They ain't going to let me slip out of their hands at all."
Instead of trading back again, the Vikings chose to stay at No. 4 and drafted left tackle Matt Kalil out of USC.
The Jacksonville Jaguars then moved up to No. 5 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and selected Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. In exchange for dropping down two spots, the Bucs also received Jacksonville's fourth-round pick (No. 101).
"It just goes to show you that anything can happen," Blackmon said, referring to the Jaguars going after him.
The Rams, possibly hoping to land Blackmon at No. 6, traded that pick to Dallas and the Cowboys selected cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU. The Cowboys gave up the No. 14 overall pick and their second-rounder (No. 45) to move up eight spots.
Finally, Tampa Bay selected safety Mark Barron at No. 7. Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill went next at No. 8 to the Miami Dolphins, and linebacker Luke Kuechly was drafted by Carolina at No. 9. Tannehill played wide receiver for most of his time in college. His coach at A&M, Mike Sherman, is Miami's offensive coordinator.
Combine wonder Dontari Poe of Memphis was taken No. 11 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. With Fletcher Cox still on the board, the Philadelphia Eagles moved up to No. 12 in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and selected the Mississippi State defensive tackle. Seattle received picks Nos. 15, 114 and 172 from Philadelphia.
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd was the second wide receiver off the board, going to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 13. Floyd will team with All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald to give Arizona the potentially dangerous 1-2 duo it has lacked since trading Anquan Boldin to Baltimore in 2010.
On the clock at No. 14, the Rams picked LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
The Seahawks made the biggest reach of the first round, taking troubled West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin at No. 15. Irvin, who has had numerous legal run-ins, wasn't expected to be picked until the second or third round.
"So fired up to have Bruce Irvin on the Seahawks! Speed, motor, height... Perfect for our system! #12thMan will love him coming off the edge!," Seattle coach Pete Carroll tweeted Thursday night.
The New England Patriots jumped up six spots from No. 27 to No. 21 in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. New England, infamous for trading back and hording picks, also gave up their third-rounder (No. 93) to select Syracuse defense end Chandler Jones.
There was a mini-run on offensive linemen after the Weeden selection, with Iowa tackle Riley Reiff heading to the Detroit Lions, and Stanford guard David DeCastro picked by the Pittsburgh Steeelers. The Patriots stopped the run with their second pick of the first round, taking Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Hightower was the ninth and last player drafted from a Southeastern Conference school. Several draft experts have projected the SEC could have at least 11 players selected in the first round. Only one conference has had more than 11 players taken in the first round, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 2006, there were 12 ACC players selected.
The Houston Texans, fresh off losing pass-rusher extraordinaire Mario Williams in free agency, took defensive end Whitney Mercilus from Illinois with the 26th pick. At No. 27, the Bengals then selected offensive guard Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin.
Green Bay made the first of 12 scheduled picks, taking USC defensive end Nick Perry at No. 28. The Vikings followed at No. 29, trading back into the first round to further boost its beleaguered secondary with Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. To get the selection, Minnesota sent it's second-round pick (No. 35) and a fourth-rounder (No. 98) to the Baltimore Ravens.
The San Francisco 49ers drafted Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins at No. 30, and the Denver Broncos then dealt the 31st pick and a fourth-round choice (No. 126) to Tampa Bay for Nos. 36 and 101. The Bucs then took Boise State running back Doug Martin to complement current starter LeGarrette Blount.
The defending champion New York Giants closed out the first round by taking Virgina Tech running back David Wilson to help replace the departed Brandon Jacobs. The Giants released Jacobs earlier in in the offseason when contract talks fizzled and Jacobs signed with the 49ers.
While much of the draft was a hectic back and forth of trades and several out-of-the-ordinary selections, the first two picks went just as expected.
Luck was predicted to go No. 1 in 2011 before returning to school for his fourth college season. His resume looks like an exact replica of Manning's -- both stayed in school one year longer than expected, both finished as Heisman Trophy runner-ups and both had fathers who played quarterback in the NFL.
Now it will be up to Luck, considered the best quarterback prospect since Manning, to replace the league's only four-time MVP for an organization that had gotten used to winning before careening to a 2-14 mark in 2011 as Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury.
The lowly mark that earned the Colts the right to select Luck also cost many of the team's decision-makers their jobs. Before releasing Manning on March 7 to avoid paying him a hefty bonus, owner Jim Irsay replaced the father-son front office tandem of Bill and Chris Polian with Ryan Grigson in January. Grigson then brought in new coach Chuck Pagano to replace the fired Jim Caldwell.
While Luck's selection at No. 1 has been all but assured for more than a year, Griffin's rise has been meteoric. The exuberant and fun-loving Griffin rocketed from fringe first-round pick a year ago to Heisman Trophy winner, beating out Luck among others for the coveted award given to college football's best player.
Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall officially welcomed Griffin to Washington, tweeting: "congrats Lil Bro. Now it's time to get to work and win some games!!!!!!!!!!! HTTR."
Like the process that led to their selections, both Luck and Griffin's rookie contracts will be fairly routine.
Luck will sign a four-year contract expected to be worth just more than $22 million based on the deal that Carolina signed No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton to last season in relation to the NFL's salary cap.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are still massaging this season's cap, which is expected to increase by just $225,000 (0.187 percent) from 2011, which means the rookie pool will increase by the same amount.
Griffin is expected to sign a contract that closely resembles the four-year deal that 2011 No. 2 pick Von Miller signed with Denver.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.