This might be bigger than the NFL playoffs this weekend. (See my picks below if you missed them). Stanford sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck released a statement today, saying:
"I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012."
In other words ...
"I just gave up $40 million GUARANTEED dollars for a college degree."
The guaranteed #1 overall pick (Carolina even confirmed last week) stays in college. Within minutes of this story breaking on ESPN.com, there were already hundreds of comments from readers.
Most people think he's an idiot for turning down that money and risking his health. You could be the best damn architect in the history of the world, but you're not making $15 million a year at 21 years old.
Other people admire his intelligence and commitment, or think he just doesn't want to play for Carolina. I agree with the first part, but not the second. Why wouldn't he want to be on the Panthers? They've got two good running backs and two stud offensive linemen and a few solid defensive players. They suck, sure, but they've got some pieces. They're no worse than St. Louis was last year.
This has nothing to do with Carolina, their lack of a head coach and their worthless receivers. This has to do with 2 factors, one of which scares the crap out of me.
1) Jim Harbaugh, Stanford's coach and Luck's mentor. He's being recruited to coach at U of M, and for the 49ers, Dolphins, and Broncos. With this unexpected news, I'd guess that Harbaugh and Luck are on the same page, and will both stay at Stanford in an effort to win a national championship. And right now I'd make them the preseason #1.
2) The Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is the one that scares me. Luck might have stayed in college knowing that an NFL lockout is a possibility, and he wanted to make sure he was playing football. I hope that's not the case. I hate even the thought of the lockout, and try not to think about it.
Either way, this is a ballsy decision. Last year Jake Locker turned down the draft and saw his stock slip from a top 5 pick to a fringe first rounder. He probably lost $20 or $30 million. Others, like Sam Bradford, have stayed in school and the gamble paid off.
An injury would be catastrophic, and would cost Luck more money than I can even think about. He'd make a great architect and his life would go on, but that's a lot of money to risk. But I think Luck is smart enough to know that his chances of suffering a serious injury are pretty slim.
This decision is ballsy not because of the injury-risk as much as the fact that Luck is the concensus #1 pick. No one else is even being considered. No matter how well he plays next year, even if he wins the Heismann and the BCS "championship," the best he can be is the #1 pick. Which tells me something about Luck - money is not his motivator.
How refreshing. How insane.
Is this really a Joakim Noah/ Tim Tebow situation where the guy just wants to win a championship? Is this a Jake Locker thing where he wants a shot at the Heismann? Or is this really about the degree?
People are all saying - hey, you can still get a degree while you play football! Or after your career is over! What do you need an architecture degree for if you're going to be a professional athlete! That's like Mozart saying "Real quick before I write my next symphony, I'm going to study ad become a blacksmith."
I don't know how I feel about this. I think it's stupid, but admirable. I think he's kind of an idiot, but kind of a role model. If I were in his shoes, I'd join the NFL Draft and not think twice. Forget Harbaugh, forget architecture, I'd buy myself a couple houses in Charlotte and a private jet. A no-brainer.
But maybe Andrew Luck is a better guy than me. Maybe this decision is so stinking noble that I can't even fathom what he's thinking. Or maybe, he really just doesn't want to be on the Panthers. Who the heck knows.
I'll tell you who LOVES hearing this news more than anybody else: Jimmy Claussen. Dude just kept his starting job. Although he's going to be battling the unwanted blues, knowing he was almost replaced.
Who else is thriving on Luck's decision: first round quarterbacks Cam Newton, Ryan Mallet, Blaine Gabbert, and of course Locker. Oh, and whoever Carolina takes #1 overall - probably receiver A.J. Green from Georgia or maybe CB Patrick Peterson or DT Nick Fairley.
This is going to mess up everyone's draft board. Before this news I would have projected four quarterbacks being drafted in the top 10. Now I don't know. Maybe three, maybe five? Will Carolina still take one? Buffalo picks #3, Arizona is #5, San Fran is #7, Tennessee is #8, and Washington is #10. All of those teams need quarterbacks. So do #2 (Denver) and #4 (Cincinnati) but those teams are stupidly sticking with their crappy guys. Picks #12 (Minnesota) and #15 (Miami) might look to trade up for quarterbacks. It all depends on each team's individual draft board. Some will want Newton, others will want Mallet, etc. No one will know until draft day. Not even Mel Kiper Jr.
For those who don't truly appreciate what a stud Luck is or have never seen him play, check out these links: