Sprinting through the underbelly of Sun Life Stadium on Monday night, nearly an hour after Stanford’s 40-12 victory over Virginia Tech was complete, quarterback Andrew Luck was still excited.
“Touchdown!” Luck yelled, an unexplainably random comment that revealed the raw jubilation of the moment.
This was his time, the best it’s going to get on this level outside a national title.
“Very few times in life does anybody get a chance to be a champion at something, and we’re the Orange Bowl champions,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And congratulations to Andrew being MVP. Very few people get to be MVPs in anything.”
For Luck, this sampling of success on the collegiate level might seem like the perfect reason for him to come back for more. It is surely addictive, and he’d surely love more of it, especially because all of his friends on the team will be back next year, too.
Forget about that. If Monday’s sensational performance proved anything, if this pinnacle of Luck’s college career should make any impact on his decision, it should be the very opposite: Go now, Andrew. You’re so very, very ready.
“He’s a great player,” said legendary quarterback and Stanford alum John Elway, watching Luck’s dominating performance from the sideline.
“And he had a great game.”
On a night that began with everyone already believing he would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Luck might have done the unthinkable: He actually managed to improve his stock.
Did you see Luck’s throw when he was being hurried out of the pocket by Virginia Tech’s Steven Friday, as the Stanford quarterback led tight end Coby Fleener on a perfect pass for another first down? Every NFL general manager most likely did.
Just like they saw him complete 9 of 10 passes in the second half for
201 yards and three touchdowns. On a night when Stanford’s entire squad played brilliantly, including a stout defense that held Virginia Tech to 66 rushing yards, Luck was still the answer in every imaginable way.
“Andrew Luck,” Harbaugh said. “He’s the straw that stirs the drink around here.”
With nearly every throw in his arsenal, with all of the physical and mental assets of a pro quarterback, Luck is certainly smart to be investing some thought into this move. He’ll make “an informed decision,” his father, Oliver, said after the game.
But with the league moving closer to a rookie slotting system — which is favored by the NFLPA and the owners — that informed decision ultimately will conclude that Luck stands his best chance for a huge payday after this year.
That’s the logical side of things. The emotional side, although respectable, is equally easy to conquer: Luck has the personality that will win over a pro locker room just as easily as he has won over his college campus.
The NFL is a business, yes. But it’s a fun one, too — especially for a player as talented as Luck.
“I think there are a lot worse decisions you might have to make in life,” Luck said Monday when asked about his upcoming process, which will require him to make a decision by the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft. “But I’d like to enjoy the night.”
There’s no question he deserves that much.
Just like his coach, who also proved Monday why he’ll have too many bigger coaching opportunities to pass up, Luck should squeeze every last drop of orange juice from this win. After all, it will never taste sweeter.
That’s exactly why it’s time to go.
“I’m so thankful to be a part of this team, a part of Stanford University,” Luck said. “It means the world.”