The criteria are as follows: Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student- athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."
During the months of June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this award, one by one. Our first announced member of The Bootleg's 2011 Honor Roll is football's Andrew Luck.
Who better to kick off our 2011 Honor Roll than the current face of Stanford athletics?
Hollywood would have rejected the story as too good to be true: this Texas quarterback, a high school valedictorian and the son of an Athletic Director to boot, turns down the big, bad hometown programs and decides instead to play his college ball with a school that had just gone through a one-win season but did things the right way, a loveable loser of a program. People know our protagonist is good, but no one thinks he'll succeed with his new ragtag teammates, and their new, quirky coach.
Three years later, he leads that team to a great start and heads start to turn. But then, things get tough: some bullies beat his team rather decisively, and knock out his teammate. Yet, when all hope appears lost, our protagonist rallies, coming back to win, win, win and win, setting up a huge season finale. Of course, he wins that one too to cap a year for the ages, and rides off on his teammates' shoulders into the sunset.
But wait, there's more. He's one of the best NFL prospects in 20 years, maybe ever, so he has a choice: the glitz and glamour of immediate riches, or following his heart. (You can see the scene in your head. Some sleezy Drew Rosenhaus-type wines and dines our protagonist and whispers sweet nothings in his year, and then our star retreats to his quiet place and mulls it all over.) Everyone thinks he'll go for the money, but then, when they least expect it, he turns down millions of dollars to stay one more year with his loveable, no-longer-loser team, his girlfriend and his little sister. Oh, and to stay in school to follow through on his childhood dream of becoming an architect. Fin.
(I guess logic dictates that this upcoming season is the crappy sequel to the successful movie, the Mighty Ducks II to last year's blockbuster. Our loveable protagonist faces off against the same foes and avenges himself – only for a new foe to rise up for a climatic battle. And then the protagonist wins again, gets the girl, wins the Heisman and resurfaces 20 years later as some D-list celebrity on a reality weight- loss show. But we digress.)
There's that tale, maybe apocryphal (I've never tested it), that if you put a frog in hot water, it'll notice and jump out, but if you gradually turn up the heat, it will never realize and ends up boiling to death. Perhaps we're the dead frogs with regards to Andrew Luck's story. Because Luck's story arc has played out piece by piece over the course of years, it all seems normal enough. It's only when you broaden your perspective and lay out the whole trajectory from scratch that, like that frog, you're blown out of the water.
So Luck enters this fall as the Heisman frontrunner, the all-but-certain No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft, the face of a top-10 (top-five?) team, and a guy who'll break just about every school record of significance. We don't know how his story, or our season, will play out moving forward, but what we do know is this: no matter how many accolades he racks up before it's all said and done, Andrew Luck will always be that loveable underdog.
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