Andrew Luck: A Natural Leader Poised for NFL Success

Jed Hughes@JedhugheskfCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2012

Andrew Luck led Stanford to victory over Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl
Andrew Luck led Stanford to victory over Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange BowlMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

On April 26, 2012, Andrew Luck became the 76th player in the history of the NFL to be drafted with the No. 1 overall pick.  It also marked the 12th time in 15 seasons that a quarterback was selected with the first pick.

Expectations are extremely high for top draft picks.  After all, teams invest significant time—and millions of dollars—in them.  This holds true for the Indianapolis Colts and their new stud quarterback.

In his first season as a redshirt freshman, Luck led Stanford to its first winning season and its first bowl game in seven years.  He followed up that successful campaign with his best college season in 2010, when he led the Cardinal to the program's highest single-season win total (12) and won the Orange Bowl. 

His four-touchdown MVP effort brought Stanford its first bowl victory in over a decade.

Following the Colts' first practice this year, head coach Chuck Pagano praised his young quarterback, calling him “unflappable” and a “natural leader” on the field (via NBC Sports). 

His performance in the 2012 preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams was impressive.  Luck's first pass as a pro went for a 63-yard touchdown. 

Ironically, his predecessor, Peyton Manning, tossed a TD in his first professional throw in the preseason as well (a 48-yard strike to Marvin Harrison).

What key qualities comprise Luck’s leadership skills?

1.     Leading by Example

2.     Work ethic

3.     Humility

4.     Commitment

Leading by Example

Many of the best leaders are the quiet ones who let their actions do the talking.  Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop who will go down as one of the team's greatest players, is certainly one example of this. 

In the new issue of Korn/Ferry's Briefings on Talent & Leadership Sports, Luck noted, “Showing you’re good at football is the quickest way to gain respect as a leader.”

Work Ethic

Luck emphasizes that the best way to build trust is to go through the daily grind with teammates.  He credits this ideology to his Stratford High School football coach, Elliot Allen.  He also notes that by playing youth sports, one learns that “hard work pays off and if you work at something—you get better at it.”


Despite his tremendous talent and comparisons to John Elway, Luck’s new teammates find him to be extraordinarily humble.  Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney told the Indianapolis Star, “He’s a humble guy, which will take him far.”


Despite predictions that he would leave school early and possibly be the top overall pick in 2011, Luck opted to finish his B.A. in architectural design at Stanford.  By doing so, he bypassed a guaranteed contract worth millions in order to finish his education. 

Before making his decision, Luck consulted with NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Sam Bradford, both of whom decided to stay at school for senior year.

This year’s NFL scouting combine confirmed Luck has the physical skill set needed to succeed at the next level. 

That's not enough, though. 

High-profile quarterbacks like JaMarcus Russell, Joey Harrington and Tim Couch all performed well in college and then had disappointing NFL careers.

Andrew Luck certainly has the qualities of a good quarterback.  However, his intelligence and leadership abilities will script his success. 

He turned a disappointing Stanford football program, a single-win team in 2006, into a top-five football program in 2010. 

In the NFL, he will be asked to revive the Colts, who struggled last year without Manning.

The road to success is tough at the professional level.  However, Andrew Luck has leadership ability and confidence in his team.  He believes that “if everyone has a common goal, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find a way to achieve that common goal.”

That goal, of course, is winning a championship, a feat the Colts last accomplished in 2007.

Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice.  Among his high profile placements are Mark Murphy, CEO of the Green Bay Packers; Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference; and Brady Hoke, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Hughes coached for two decades in professional and intercollegiate football where he served under five Hall of Fame coaches: Bo Schembechler (Michigan), Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bud Grant (Minnesota Vikings), John Ralston (Stanford) and Terry Donahue (UCLA).  Follow him on Facebook, Twitter @jedhughesKF.


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