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NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Heisman Trophy finalist Andrew Luck of the Stanford University Cardinal speaks during a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
A year ago, Luck decided to stay in college for his junior year.
Though he could have been the top pick in the NFL draft, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2010 had unfinished business at Stanford. He wanted to graduate and he wanted to take one more shot with his teammates at achieving something special in Palo Alto.
The season is not over for the Cardinal, but the hope that Luck will win the Heisman Trophy is now gone.
Saturday night in New York City, Robert Griffin III beat out Luck, dazzling voters with his ability to throw, run and lead Big 12 doormat Baylor into the national rankings. Griffin, known as RG3, became the first Heisman winner from Baylor and he did it by a comfortable margin over the Stanford star.
Luck, who was the only repeat finalist among this season’s final five, has led the Cardinal to an 11-1 record and a berth in the BCS Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State. In the process, Luck – who’s still the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft – has thrown for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns. He’s also completed more than 70 percent of his passes and has a career TD-to-interception ratio of 4-to-1.
Though he started the season as the favorite for the award, Luck in recent weeks was reported to have fallen behind Baylor’s Griffin as the front-runner - so the loss was not a surprise.
Luck is still on track to graduate in June with a degree in architectural design (and a 3.48 GPA and Pac-12 All-Academic honors), he’s led the Cardinal to consecutive BCS bowls and he’ll still make millions in the NFL.
Luck became the face of the turnaround in the Stanford football program, along with former head coach Jim Harbaugh, who moved on to the 49ers after last season. In Stanford’s previous seven seasons prior to Luck’s arrival, the Cardinal was 25-55. In Luck’s three seasons, Stanford is 31-6.
Last January, Luck’s father – former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck – called his son “old school,” saying “he comes from a faction of people who believe you go to college to pursue your degree.”
Added Papa Luck: “It’s not like the NFL is going anywhere. … It will be there when he graduates.”
Andrew Luck told the New York Times last year that he believed staying at Stanford another year was the right thing for him to do. And he wasn’t worried that by staying an extra year he would fall from grace in the eyes of NFL scouts or suffer a career-threatening injury.
“I don’t want to sound cocky or pretentious or whatever, but no,” he told the Times. “I think it’s just you have to have trust in the decision you’re going to make is the right one. If it’s going back to school, I’m confident that I can perform at a high level.”
The real reward is still ahead for Luck. Draft day might very well still belong to Luck.