By Ross Jones, FOXSports.com
The long-lasting effect of Andrew Luck began at the high-school level.
Going into Luck’s junior season at Stratford High School (Houston, Texas), the school was riding a 13-year playoff drought. That changed as Luck led the team to the Texas State 5A playoffs with a breakout year. Although Stratford was bounced out of the first round, it has been very competitive ever since.
Similar things happened during Luck’s tenure at Stanford. Following years of poor performances, he tied together a team that would go on to make BCS bowl appearances. Oh yeah, Luck is in the NFL now and Stanford just won The Rose Bowl. Funny how that works out.
All of the accolades and awards Luck has won doesn’t surprise his high school coach, Elion Allen.
“He’s got unbelievably high character and is a great leader, but it’s not like it’s something that he aspires to do,” Allen told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “It just happens naturally because he cares about everyone on the team, whether you’re a third-team guy or a star.”
Following a freshman season at Stratford that was cut short because of injuries, Luck went into the summer participating in 7-on-7 tourneys.
Opposed to the bunched up, run-first oriented offenses, Texas state football takes advantage of the passing game and encourages its skill players to participate in such events. It’s no surprise that quarterbacks from the state of Texas like Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford have succeeded at such an accelerated rate.
“They’re throwing into tight, man-to-man coverage with two-deep safeties, so the windows are small,” said Allen of the players taking part in the offseason tourneys. “But Andrew was famous for executing a four-minute offense. He could nickel and dime you down the field with little, short accurate passes, it was almost like brain surgery.”
Honing that skill came into play right away for Luck during his sophomore season.
Making the first start of his varsity career, Luck would have to pilot a game-winning drive. Stratford had the lead in the fourth quarter, but needed to chew up clock and drive the ball down the field.
“I remember looking out [on the field] and his arms were draped around the entire huddle. His head was bobbing up and down and you could tell that he is yelling at them. From that moment on, I knew we had something special,” Allen said
Luck led his team down the field to seal the win. Was there ever a worry?
“Remember, he was the only sophomore in that huddle, the rest were seniors. And after, everyone was like, ‘Oh my god. Andrew is unbelievable. He got in the huddle and juiced us up.’ So, he picked his moment and was very successful.
“The thing that really stood out with him is in big situations throughout his entire time in high school, college and in the pros, he excelled in tight situations when the pressure was on. It’s like the game slowed down for him.”
Luck, whose dad (Oliver) played several seasons in the NFL, was a terrific resource, especially during recruiting. Following a breakout junior season, Allen described his office as a “revolving door” for college-football coaches.
“There were a bunch of them that came through from Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Nick Saban, just to name a few,” Allen recalls.
Allen would often talk to Luck about recruiting and the latter’s decision to put an emphasis on education would eventually steer him to Palo Alto. Luck’s top choices had all very strong engineering schools, something that he took very seriously.
“I think Stanford was always one of his top choices. Even before [Jim] Harbaugh even got there,” Allen said. “He really liked Stanford.”
Luck would go on to have a very successful collegiate career and earned his degree. In April 2012, the Colts selected him with the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, something Allen was lucky enough to attend.
“[Being at the NFL Draft] was an unbelievable, surreal experience. For me always watching the draft, but never getting the opportunity to be there and then obviously to watch one of your former players be the No. 1 pick, was one of the highlights of my life,” Allen said.
It’s fair to say Luck left his mark and will likely to do the same at the pro level.
Questions? Comments? Send them to [email protected] and we might respond in our weekly mailbag!