Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Andrew Luck, One of the Best...Ever

For the past three years I’ve watched Andrew Luck, Stanford quarterback, play…game in and game out. From the first game I watched in person at Stanford Stadium…in fact, his first few snaps, I knew he had “it.” What is “it”? A combination of poise, leadership, arm strength (he can throw a ball 70 yards just with little effort), ability to read the defense quickly and adjust, toughness, athleticism, mobility, accuracy (both short and deep), intelligence, etc.

Andrew Luck
Now, I’ve watched plenty of high school and college athletes. And, some were “can’t miss” (Kevin Garnett, Donovan McNabb, Al Toon, Grant Hill) and others I thought were “can’t miss”, but didn’t quite get there (Jamie Brandon, Ronnie Fields). But, with Andrew, I knew I was seeing the real thing. And, it wasn’t just the hype of coming out of Stratford High School in Houston (he was rated the No. 4 quarterback in the nation by Scout.com) and the anticipation of his starting throughout his redshirt year. There was something I saw in those first few snaps against Washington…I knew Andrew was special. And, this was with Toby Gerhart in the backfield and an offense geared to that Heisman runner-up, who amassed 1,871 yards in his last season at Stanford.
In each game throughout his college career, he has that moment or two that just makes you think…“Wow, that was amazing.” From the passes he’s thrown in tight windows to his tight ends this year to the one-handed catch against Colorado, he never disappointed. I know, I know…all the high expectations this year. Kirk Herbstreit from ESPN said that the bar kept getting raised for Andrew; every time he did something good it wasn’t good enough. It’s hard to live up to all of that. However, if you really watched him play you’d see how great he’s been.
Just look at the numbers, this year:
·         98% red zone efficiency (No. 1 in the nation)

·         35 touchdowns (a Stanford record)

·         28 touchdowns in the red zone, with no turnovers in the red zone

·         3,170 yards passing

·         11-1 (Stanford is currently No. 4 in the nation)

Over his career:
·         9,083 yards passing (third in Stanford history)

·         3.9-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio

·         .838 winning percentage (31-6)

·         80 career passing touchdowns

·         Seven four touchdown games

And, remember, he’s done this in three years, not four, as most QBs who put up numbers like this.
But, with Andrew it goes beyond the numbers. He is a coach on the field and a true leader. Going into the huddle Andrew is given a few plays by the coaches and when he gets to the line, reads the defense and calls what they run. No looking to the sideline for the play while the clock ticks down like others. He is the only quarterback in college football that does this or has done it. On top of this, each week Andrew learns nearly 270 new plays based on the opponent in basically one day…and perfects them the rest of the week. Other teams in college football run 70 to 100 plays each week. Not Stanford. I don’t know about you, but this just adds to my amazement.

I’m not the only one who thinks he’s great. ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay just completed The Ultimate Scouting Report on Andrew, comparing him to other top QBs and said he has NO glaring weaknesses.
The two games this season that really cemented his legacy for me were the Arizona and USC games. At Arizona, the game was close in the first half and Chris Owusu (receiver) and Coby Fleener (tight end) went down and the team lost the heart and soul of their defense Shayne Skov for the season. Losing three impact players could have turned anyone’s game and season upside down, but Andrew stepped right up and basically told the team they could carry on and win. And, they did…somehow coming up with a 37-10 victory.

And, who could forget the USC game—it was a classic. A tough, back-and-forth game that went into 3 OTs before Stanford pulled it out. Seconds after throwing an interception that went for a touchdown, Andrew walked up and down the sideline and told his teammates that they would win the game. He was focused, and they came back to force overtime. They stepped up as a team, with A.J. Tarpley recovering a fumble to seal the victory.

These past three years watching Andrew play has been an amazing ride. One more game left, the Fiesta Bowl. As usual, no expectations…just watching the best college football player of this generation and one of the best of all-time.