Andrew Luck, the star quarterback at Stanford University announced that he would return to school to complete his degree in Architectural Design. This announcement came as somewhat of a surprise as Luck pretty much secured his place as the number one overall NFL draft pick (held by the Carolina Panthers who desperately need a quarterback) earlier in the week leading the Cardinal to a 40-12 win over Virginia Tech. Many wondered why Luck would turn down millions to return to college and play for free. Many pointed to Matt Leinart as an example of what could go wrong when you choose to stay in school.
Matt Leinart was the golden armed leader of the USC Trojans who after winning the Heisman trophy and a national championship, chose to remain in school for his senior season. Leinart was considered a consensus number one pick in 2004 after winning the Heisman trophy. The USC team was stacked with talent and many thought they would repeat as BCS national champions and Leinart had a shot at a repeat Heisman trophy (which ultimately went to teammate Reggie Bush). Matt chose to stay. By many accounts, Matt lived the high life in 2005. Having finished most of his requirements for graduation, he chose a schedule that included such difficult courses as Ballroom Dancing while enjoying the southern California lifestyle. On the field, the Trojans were just as dominant as many predicted and, barring a bad call in The Rose Bowl versus the Texas Longhorns, would have won a second straight BCS Championship.
Everything was working according to plan, except it didn’t. Matt Leinart was no longer the consensus number one pick. He wasn’t even considered number two (that went again to teammate Reggie Bush). Matt Leinart fell in the draft to the Arizona Cardinals at number 10. He wasn’t even the first quarterback taken, that honor went to Vince Young at number three. Many considered the decision he made to stay in school a bad one as he lost millions of dollars by falling so far. However, he still was able to sign a six year 51 million dollar contract. Not too shabby for having spent a year as the big man on campus ballroom dancing without a care in the world.
Fast forward to 2011 and Andrew Luck is faced with a similar decision. Andrew can choose to be the center of attention in Palo Alto, California, or be beaten, bruised, and picked apart as the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers. Given those options, wouldn’t you choose to stay in school? I would. Sure he may not be number one next year. He may get injured and never play in the NFL at all. But what he may have is that year, that magical year where he gets the glory and adulation and has few cares in the world. You simply can’t put a price tag on memories like that.
Tough Luck Carolina.