June 30 will go down in the history books as perhaps the biggest day in 2008 for Stanford Football. The Cardinal on Saturday grabbed national headlines when they landed a verbal commitment from the country's #6-ranked quarterback, Andrew Luck.
The 6'3" 215-pound slinger from Houston (Tex.) Stratford High School, ranked the #57 overall player in the Class of 2008 by Scout.com, is the first Top 100 national commit this year for Stanford and the first since defensive tackle Ekom Udofia (#65 in the Class of 2005).
Luck called Jim Harbaugh early Saturday morning with his verbal commitment, though he gave advanced notice on Thursday to the Cardinal head coach that the good news could soon be coming.
"I talked to the coaches two days ago and sort of told them that I would commit, but I made it official today. I told Coach Harbaugh that I was excited about attending Stanford," Luck shares. "He's excited, and we talked a lot about Stanford Football. We'll continue our communication as the summer goes along, through the season and after the season up until the summer."
As one can imagine, Harbaugh reacted to the news with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
"Well, he's always an enthusiastic guy," Luck laughs. "But he was pretty excited when I told him. He told me that he was excited that my choice is Stanford, and he hopes that this year is going to be a good year. I don't think that there are many underclassmen quarterbacks coming back, so I have a good chance at getting playing time early on."
Luck's commitment comes on the heels of his having camped less than two weeks ago on The Farm. The experience was a test drive for the coveted quarterback, as he worked for a day with Harbaugh and the Cardinal coaches and gathered a glimpse of their future together.
"It was a great experience. All the coaches are enthusiastic, and they put a lot of energy into teaching and showing the players what to do," comments the new Cardinal commit. "I had a great experience, and being around the other campers was awesome. It was a good chance to meet a lot of new people I hadn't met before. It was a good experience. There was a lot of enthusiasm, and I learned a lot."
Particularly eye-opening was the quarterback drills, where Luck learned just how personally and physically involved Harbaugh is on the practice field.
"He's in the drill with you and running around with you," the recruit relates. "He's very enthusiastic, and it rubs off on you."
In one drill that taught mobility in the pocket and how to roll out when the quarterback breaks contain, Harbaugh was the defensive end ravenously chasing Luck and the other passers.
"It's an interesting experience," Luck laughs. "He might not be as fast as some of the defensive players I've faced, but it was a fun experience."
This was the second visit for the heralded Houston quarterback to The Farm, following his trip in March. That first journey helped Luck to learn the lay of the land and meet the new Stanford coaching staff. This trip brought a magnifying glass for closer scrutiny in advance of his college decision.
"I wanted to see how the coaches interact with you during practice. I was trying to get a feel for what a practice would be like at Stanford because last time I didn't get a chance to see a practice or be part of a camp," he explains. "I liked the enthusiasm. The coaches were great and interacted really well with the kids."
Moreover, his first visit brought his father, former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, in tow. The son's national rankings and acclaim might carry a lot of weight with college coaches, but he was not about to make a decision to travel two time zones from home without bringing his mother to see Stanford. Kathy Luck accompanied him this month and was more than pleased to give her blessing.
"She loved the campus and the weather. It's beautiful up there. She loved it," the son says. "It was important for her, and for me to talk through this with my whole family. Also my coach."
Luck owns a long list of more than 20 scholarship offers, including Stanford, Cal, Arizona, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Alabama, LSU and Florida State. He surprised many of those schools, as well as recruiting analysts, when he cut many of the powerhouse programs and narrowed to six schools that primary were known for their academics. His final four came last week, winnowed to Stanford, Northwestern, Rice and Purdue. Luck ultimately decided between Stanford and Northwestern, the only two schools where he chose to camp this summer.
"Stanford had always sort of been number one with me," he admits. "I was very interested in Northwestern just because they are like Stanford in regards to how they have great academics and a good football program. Stanford and Northwestern - it was a difficult decision, but I just felt more comfortable at Stanford."
"Stanford has just a little bit more of an academic reputation than the other schools," Luck adds. "They were all great schools. Rice was a little smaller than Stanford - about half its size."
"I had a chance to talk to professors in engineering at all the schools except Purdue, and they all had great programs," he notes. "But once again, I just felt more comfortable at Stanford in the engineering regard."
Even among a pool of academic competitors, it is unsurprising for a student-athlete like Luck to pick Stanford. The Stratford High School senior is ranked #1 in his class of 500 and scored a 1900 on his SAT as a sophomore.
The less obvious answer is why the nation's #6 quarterback would commit to a program which suffered through a 1-11 campaign last fall. How did Luck find comfort that the football program at Stanford can compete at the championship level he deserves?
"They have had great tradition in the past," he reasons. "Coach Harbaugh had a lot of success at San Diego. Even though that was I-AA, it was I-AA across the board. He had I-AA players playing against I-AA. And he's a great coach. I just feel like Stanford is meant to be close to the top of the Pac-10 again and not in the cellar."
Luck as one of the elite players in a stacked state of Texas this year, and one of the top few quarterbacks in the nation, should be expected to play an integral role in his prophesized revival of Stanford Football - in the future on the field, as well as this year in recruiting the Class of 2008. Anyone who has come to know Luck, however, understands the difficulty in mining that kind of proclamation through his armor of humility.
"I'll have to wait and see until I get there and compete for playing time. Nothing is ever sewn up or written in stone," offers the nation's #6-ranked quarterback. "It's an honor to be ranked that high, but I try not to pay too much attention to those rankings. I guess it does have sort of a ripple effect when anybody chooses a school."
Up next, a closer look at the magnitude and impact of Andrew Luck's commitment, plus how special a quarterback Stanford has landed.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!