The lord was on vacation in southern Italy two years ago, working his way up the coast toward Rome, when a tall man caught his eye.
The kid from his lone year coaching college football was walking right toward him.
“We looked at each other — ‘Is that who I think it is?’ — and stopped and talked for a while,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
Fangio’s NFL coaching career, which started 30 years ago, has only been interrupted once — by a 2010 stint as Stanford’s defensive coordinator. The tall kid, Andrew Luck, was a redshirt sophomore then, emerging as a star quarterback after throwing for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns. He finished second in Heisman Trophy voting.
Luck and his teammates had a oh-so-Stanford nickname for their defensive coordinator — one worthy a Harry Potter villain.
“Lord Fangio,” Luck said this week, “growing his blitz package in the dungeon.”
Sunday, Luck will be the target of Fangio’s spells — as if the quarterback didn’t have enough problems. He’s been sacked a league-high 15 times. When three rookies started on the offensive line Sunday because of injuries, Luck was sacked six times for the first time in his career, and the Colts fell to 1-3.
This, after going 2-5 in seven starts last year, when he was sacked 15 times and beaten into physical submission, injuring his ribs and shoulder and lacerating his kidney.
The Bears — whose six sacks are better than only five teams — might not see a better opportunity than Sunday in Indianapolis.
“I’ll say this: I’ve got a lot of respect for Vic, count him as a friend and really admire him as a coach, as a person,” Luck said. “Even as an offensive player, I enjoyed hearing him talk in meetings when we were at Stanford, and how much the guys on defense respected him.
“But I dunno if that’ll affect us in this game.”
Luck has faced Fangio only once in the regular season, beating he and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers in 2013. Luck said it was no big deal, but Colts coach Chuck Pagano said afterward he’d never seen him smile so much.
Fangio said any inside insight he had into Luck has been negated by five years of pro tape, but swears he knew six years ago the sophomore would be a quintessential NFL passer.
“He’s the same guy all the time,” Fangio said. “He’s a great quarterback, got a great arm, great athlete. He’s big — 245 pounds — and can run. He’s fast. He’s got great instincts and knowledge of the game. He’s a complete quarterback, in every sense of the word.”
Luck said he’s tried to limit his hits and “make sure you’re not putting yourself in vulnerable positions.” Pagano said his quarterback isn’t rattled by the hits, but he does get frustrated; after handing the Jaguars their first win of the season Sunday in London, Luck said he was “tired of ‘almost.’”
“Andrew has been taking sacks for a long time — I’m sure he knows how to do something about that,” said Bears inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a teammate for four years on the Colts. “Protection-wise, he knows when things are coming. He can see things. You can tell in practice and in the game, he sees this blitz, he sees that, he sees everything. If he catches you, it’s over.”
Freeman considers him brilliant.
Fangio has a reputation as a mad genius, too, though he still laughs about the lord nickname.
“If you give him a lot of time to throw, he’s got a chance to shred ya,” Fangio said. “He’s also a guy that, with his mobility, will give you problems back there, both with pulling it down and running and buying more time to throw.
“Pass rush is critical every week, not just this week. When you’re going against a quarterback as great as Andrew, it’s critical.”