Houston (Tex.) Stratford High School enjoyed a banner season on the football field in 2006, notching a perfect 7-0 record in district and winning their first district championship since 1988. The Spartans advanced in the state playoffs and lost a 34-33 thriller at Reliant Stadium in the Area Finals on a blocked PAT with 0:55 left in fourth quarter. Stratford's five touchdowns came either from the arm or feet of junior quarterback Andrew Luck, who threw 28 completions for 339 yards and four touchdowns while also running for 91 yards and a score on 21 carries. His sole interception of the game came on a Hail Mary to the goalline at the final gun.
For the 6'3" slinger, it was a rare taste of defeat in Stratford's 10-2 year, though his performance and season were widely celebrated. Luck threw for 2,909 yards and 27 touchdowns on 69% completions (183-of-266) against just six interceptions in the Spartans' spread offense. He also led his team in rushing with 714 yards on 118 carries (6.1 ypc) and 10 more touchdowns.
"Ultimately what was asked of me was to win games," Luck describes. "We had our best year in 10 years, so we did excellent in the category of winning. I wouldn't say too much was asked of me - just make the plays and lead the team to wins."
"First and foremost, take care of the ball. Don't turn it over because bad things happen when you do that," the quarterback continues. "Just get the ball to the open man. We're making a lot of three-step throws and quick throws: hitch, slants and outs. But we also hit some corners, digs and comebacks. We make a lot of throws. We also got the ball down the field a fair amount. We were not conservative on offense. We took our shots."
Luck earned MVP honors in his district, as well as First-Team All-Greater Houston recognition by the Houston Chronicle. He is one of Scout.com's Top 100 juniors in the Class of 2008 and currently ranked the #4 prospect in Texas. None of that, however, has Luck shying away from the areas he needs to improve this off-season.
"First, it's my footwork because I need to put myself in a good position to make good throws with good feet," he says. "Also leadership and being more vocal. Now as a senior, you have to take even more of a leadership role on the team."
Luck played at 6'3" 205 last fall and since has filled out to 215 pounds. At the same time, he is working on becoming quicker on his feet.
"I'm trying to upgrade my footspeed and get faster. It never hurts to get faster," says the quarterback who is using jump ropes and boxes rather than the track this off-season. He most recently clocked at 4.80 running the 40 this winter.
"I wish I could say 4.7," Luck laughs. "Quarterbacks don't have to be track stars to be good."
There are a host of college suitors who have voted with their scholarship offers that Luck is a good enough quarterback. Some of those include Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor. And those are just the ones who don't have the fortune of residing in the top 12 of this Lone Star State slinger. He names that group of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Northwestern, Purdue, Rice, Virginia and LSU. Texas, Stanford, UCLA and Virginia have yet to offer the Houston junior.
"It's been a unique experience. It's been awesome. But it can get a little tiresome sometimes and can be a hassle," Luck says of the recruiting process. "Sometimes you just want to be a regular high school kid. But it's been fine. There are much worse problems you can have in life."
Quarterbacks typically pull the quickest triggers in their college commitments, so could Luck feel compelled to end his recruitment soon?
"No, not really," he says. "I do not have a timeframe on when I want to commit or decide to go somewhere. I guess it's just whatever feels right at the time, and if that's on Signing Day next year, before the season starts, during the middle of the season or right after the season - it doesn't matter."
"I still feel that it's early, and there is a lot to see still. There is a lot to do," Luck adds. "Probably after the summer I will have a clearer view."
Between now and then, Luck logically would take a slew of unofficial visits to delve into his dozen favorites. He has however stayed mostly at home in Houston this winter and has no plans for the spring, when he will be neck deep with spring practices and 7 on 7 tournaments. Luck made two short trips to Austin and College Station for their respective Junior Days, only because of the short driving distances.
"I will go to some football camps," he says looking ahead to the summer. "I'm not quite sure where. I'll probably figure that out about right after spring football. But I'll probably go to three or four camps."
Luck has taken one major trip, which brought him to the Bay Area on March 15 as a side stop of a family vacation.
"We had decided that we were going skiing in Colorado for spring break," he explains. "Stanford and Cal have always intrigued me. I've always wanted to see the Bay Area and heard a lot about it. It sounds like a good place to go to school, and Stanford and Cal have always been schools that interested me because of their great academics and also their excellent athletic programs."
"It was beautiful. Beautiful," Luck says of his first time in the San Francisco area. "It was great weather. The sun with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay - it's a very beautiful place."
The family saw both Bay Area campuses on the same day, with their time on The Farm running from 11am to 4pm. Then it was off to Berkeley from 5pm to 7pm. First up, Stanford:
"We went and looked at the Arrillaga sports office buildings. They were very nice and all up-to-date facilities," the recruit recounts. "They have great facilities, and the campus is wonderful and huge. It seems like a very nice place to be for four years. We saw the outside of the stadium and talked with some coaches. It was a fun trip."
"I did get to talk with Coach [Jim] Harbaugh for a while. He is a very energetic and fun guy," Luck adds.
"At Cal, we toured the facilities as well," he continues. "We saw the stadium and talked to the coaches for a while. They offered me a scholarship and talked about California. It's also a great academic institution like Stanford. They're both great places."
Luck walked away with no hard feelings toward the Cardinal, though it was their rival who instead offered during his visit.
"It's fine with me. I have no qualms about it. This is somewhat of a business," Luck comments. "I'm still interested in Stanford. It's a great place, from what I saw. It seemed like a great school. They have great academics. If you graduate from there with a degree, you're pretty well set. It's still too early to start narrowing down things. We'll see what happens."
The interest from this student-athlete in the academics of his college decision are more than words. Luck is ranked #1 in his class of 500 with a perfect 6.5 GPA on a 6.5 scale. He is taking a schedule full of honors and AP courses and has an unblemished string of As on his transcript, headed for valedictorian honors.
"I hope I don't blow it now," Luck laughs. "Math interests me the most. In college, right now I think I'd be interested in studying civil engineering."
The Texas talent also has a strong SAT score in his hip pocket. Luck late in his sophomore year sat down for the standardized test and scored a 1900 on the new 2400-point scale. His composite math + verbal score totals a 1320 on the old, familiar 1600 scale. He is scheduled to retake the SAT this spring with a goal of clearing 2050, while also testing himself for the first time on the ACT.
With his impeccable academic and football credentials, Luck has little to prove to anybody today. His suitors instead have the burden of winning him over. Though Luck says that he has no timetable for his college commitment, he intends at the end of the spring to narrow his list before deciding where he will camp in the summer. He gives three criteria which will weigh most heavily as he makes his decisions.
"Academics, coaching staff and do I feel comfortable at the school," Luck lists.
So how do the Cardinal stack up so far?
"Stanford has great academics obviously. Sheesh, you almost can't beat them. Coach Harbaugh is a very energetic and fun guy," the recruit responds. "I wouldn't know how I feel comfortable because I haven't been there on an official visit yet myself. But for academics and coaching staff, they're great."
The $64,000 question that remains is if and when Stanford will make a play for Andrew Luck with a scholarship offer. That is the next part of this story to watch, and we will follow its path in the coming weeks and months. Luck is a rock star as student-athletes go, which makes his tale one of the most compelling in the Class of 2008. Stay tuned.
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