If Tom Brady was nervous before the first start of his NFL career, he was trying hard not to show it.

Then Peyton Manning came up to him in pregame warmups and introduced himself. Asked what he said in response, Brady said, “Obviously it’s something I probably couldn’t repeat.”

The New England Patriots would win that game 44-13 on Sept. 30, 2001, and one of the NFL’s top quarterback rivalries was born.

Sunday, roles will be reversed as Brady, the veteran, takes on Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts rookie, for the first time. The teams, both 6-3, play at Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m.

Will Brady approach Luck the way his now-close friend Manning did?

“I don’t know,” said Brady. “We’ll see. I don’t go out (for pre-game) too early anymore. I tend to just keep to myself.”

Luck is looking forward to the challenge of playing against Brady and the Patriots. He may be a rookie, but he knows the history of these teams, who have met in the regular season for 10 consecutive years. He watched Brady vs. Manning very closely.

“As a young quarterback growing up, I took the opportunity to watch the sort of benchmarks of quarterback play,” he said. “There were some great playoff games at both stadiums. I think Gillette had grass for a while back so it got fairly muddy sometimes late in the year watching them play.

“Those are always fun for a lot of people, including me.”

Luck dismissed any comparisons to Brady and Manning.

“I definitely don’t deserve to be in that sentence or in the same breath,” he said. “If someday I can play at a level that Peyton and Tom play at, then that would be a quarterback’s dream come true.”

Against the Patriots, Luck looks to continue his surprising rookie season. The Colts have won four in a row and are much more competitive than anyone could have anticipated. Much of that is due to Luck, the first pick of last April’s NFL draft.

Luck has passed for 2,631 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 159 yards and five touchdowns — already the single-season high in franchise history.

“I think he’s gotten better every week,” said Bill Belichick, the Patriots’ head coach. “He does a real good job of avoiding the rush but keeping his eyes downfield, and not just pulling the ball down and trying to run or kind of panicking in the pocket. He has a lot of poise.”

Luck said he doesn’t try to run, but that circumstances sometimes dictate that he must.

“I guess part of playing the position is when the time comes, when it’s necessary to use your legs for a first down or to get a touchdown, might as well use them,” he said.

Brady, who played in only one game his rookie season, certainly respects what Luck has done.

“As a rookie, I was like fourth-string and eating nachos before the game in the stands,” he said. “There wasn’t much of me thinking playing. I always admire those rookies who can do it because it is such a challenge, whether you’re a defensive end like (New England’s) Chandler Jones, or (Pats linebacker) Dont’a Hightower or Andrew Luck or any of these rookies who really play a big role for a certain team.

“It’s a real credit to them and their ability to transition and focus on all these new things that have really come about, and go out there and play well.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH