So, I was reading AOL FanHouse columnist David Steele’s most recent column on Andrew Luck, and I got to thinking: Luck past up millions of dollars to stay at Stanford for his redshirt junior year and secure a Stanford degree. Financially risky, but was it stupid? I would say no.
What I would say is that Andrew Luck is extremely smart for passing up his chance to become a surefire No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, even though that meant he was passing up a guaranteed $20 million which Cam Newton got from the Carolina Panthers.
Luck made a decision to stay in school to graduate rather than become a millionaire after a phenomenal redshirt sophomore season with Stanford that ended with an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
From a financial standpoint, it’s absolutely absurd to think anyone would pass up a guaranteed $20 million to stay in school. The average college student goes to school in order to achieve a degree that will provide financial stability in the future.
A degree that means so much in today’s society, a piece of paper that puts one person ahead of another when it comes down to a company’s decision to hire a candidate. It’s so vitally important to us—the average American college student—that we tend to criticize athletes for passing up a chance to make guaranteed millions to stay in school.
We wonder what goes through their minds as a college student. I know for a fact that if I had an offer to make $20 million guaranteed—no matter what it was—I’d jump at the opportunity. No matter the consequences.
But Andrew Luck is not the average college student. Andrew Luck is a future NFL superstar quarterback. An extremely talented passer who was coached by Jim Harbaugh, who left Stanford last year to lead the San Francisco 49ers to their first NFC West division title since 2002. He’s a guaranteed first-round pick in this April’s NFL draft.
Luck’s redshirt junior season didn’t win him the Heisman trophy, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a Heisman-esque season. Luck threw for 3,517 yards and 37 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. He had a 71.3 completion percentage, and only one multi-interception game.
He didn’t win the national championship in returning for what was his final year at Stanford—since he's a redshirt, he could still stay and play another season at Stanford. Instead, Stanford lost in overtime to Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl after Stanford’s freshman kicker Jordan Williamson missed a potential game-winning kick.
Stanford didn’t win the Pac-12. That title went to the Oregon Ducks, who beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Monday. That was another achievement Luck didn’t get by staying another year.
But let’s look at the big picture, and ask ourselves what Luck achieved by finishing out his college career.
Luck still figures to be a top-five selection in April’s draft where the Indianapolis Colts hold the rights to the first pick. Whether the Colts pick Luck, trade the pick to another team or select Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, who established himself as a potential No. 1 pick, is still in question. Regardless, Luck is still in line to make millions.
Stanford finished the 2011 season with an 11-2 record and a No. 4 ranking. Luck didn’t win a BCS bowl game, but he did lead Stanford to another season where they finished in the Top 10 and faced a formidable foe in Oklahoma St.
His redshirt junior season wasn’t a disappointment in terms of a football standpoint. While he didn’t win the prestigious Heisman trophy, national championship or a BCS bowl game, Luck had a tremendous season throwing the football and did nothing to diminish his stock in the draft.
What Andrew Luck did was earn a degree from one of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. He has a 3.48 cumulative grade-point average according to an ESPN report. Luck put himself in position that if somehow his NFL career doesn’t pan out, he has a fallback plan in place.
He’ll graduate in the spring with a Stanford degree in architectural design. Andrew Luck will have something that not many have; a degree from the Stanford University and millions of dollars after being picked in the first round of the NFL draft.
What I say to that is that his decision to stay in school was well worth it. Because Andrew Luck, come this spring, will be able to say that he is a graduate of the proud Stanford University and the proud future star quarterback for (insert NFL team here).
I praise Luck for staying. To me, there’s no question to wonder if Luck made a mistake in staying for another year because to me, that answer is so clear cut, that it’s not even a question.
Andrew Luck knew the financial risks of staying, but he wanted to graduate with a degree from Stanford. He wanted to finish what he started. He wanted another shot at winning a National Championship.
He didn’t win a title, but he’s a winner in my book.