State your Heisman case: Andrew Luck

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
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I'm tasked with making a case for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to win the Heisman Trophy. Shouldn't take much. Luck did most of the work himself -- and head coach David Shaw did a pretty good job last week filling in any blanks that might have been left out.

No question, Luck is a victim of his own success. When he opted to return to college ball for another season, the hype machine went into overdrive. He was given almost impossible standards to live up to. Funny thing is, he did.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty ImagesStanford QB Andrew Luck has proven this season that his mental makeup is as devastating to opponents as his passing ability.
Consider:

  • He more than satisfied the "team success" criteria, leading the Cardinal to an 11-1 record, the No. 4 ranking in the BCS standings and a second straight BCS bowl berth.
  • He was perfect in the red zone -- 26 touchdowns and zero interceptions. No one else can make that claim.
  • Stanford led the nation in fewest negative plays -- that's because Luck always had them running the best play against the optimal defensive scheme.
  • People often compare him to former Stanford great John Elway. Luck broke all of Elway's touchdown records. And he did it in three years while in a pro-style offense.

He has the highest football IQ of any Heisman contender. And, oh yeah, he calls his own plays from a list of more than 250! Most teams go into a game with 75-100 plays. This guy's mental rolodex can sort out more than 250 plays in the time the ball is set to the time the ball is snapped. No stopping to look at the sidelines after the defense has been set. No "I'm confused, coach" timeouts.

People have knocked Luck for not having a "Heisman moment." Trust me, he's had plenty. He just hasn't had your definition of a Heisman moment. For Luck, a Heisman moment is recognizing a defensive alignment, killing a passing play, changing the formation and then checking to a new play that yields a 10-yard run. He has about 10 Heisman moments every game. You just don't recognize them.

He's not as flashy as some of the other candidates. He's not asked to be. He's asked to be smarter than the other candidates; and the opposing defense; and even the opposing defensive coordinator and head coach.

Stanford has been styling him as "The Quarterback Redefined," which is accurate. We haven't seen anyone like him probably in the history of college football. Sometimes you hear the comparison to Peyton Manning -- that's the NFL Peyton Manning, not the Tennessee Peyton Manning. Luck is a far more evolved and cerebral quarterback at this point in his career than Manning was.

Conventional voting methods have to be thrown out when looking at Luck. It's not just lining up player A, B, and C and then looking at their stats. Luck is a once-in-a-generation college football player who has reset the bar of what a college quarterback is capable of.

And let's not overlook the first line of the Heisman mission statement:
The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.

Is there a better poster boy than Luck? Great student-athlete. He's an intelligent person -- not just football player. I'm not saying give it to him because he's a nice guy. Give it to him because he's a nice guy -- who also happens to be the best college football player in the country.

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