How one college kid’s decision changed both his own fate and that of multiple NFL franchises

I could see the conversation last year going something like this.  Maybe it was a family member, a coach, or an adviser trying to give advice to a bright young kid who was completing his 3rd year at one of the finest institutes of higher learning in the country and ahd a life-atlering decision to make.  “What’s the worse that can happen, you get hurt?  Even if you do you’ll have a degree.  Besides it’s not like Peyton Manning is going to get hurt, miss the season, the Colts will tank, Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay will head for a messy divorce and you will be called on to rebuild the team that Peyton build in the brand new house that Peyton built.”  Whoops.

Andrew Luck decided to forego the NFL Draft to chase a Heisman and a National Championship

Roughly 13 months ago Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck decided to return to school after his red shirt sophomore season rather than go pro and enter the NFL draft even though he was viewed by many scouts as the consensus #1 pick.  The Carolina Panthers held the #1 pick in the draft last year.  Despite his head coach Jim Harbaugh jumping ship to the NFL Luck decided to stay in school, earn his degree, and try to win a national championship with the Cardinal.  There are a lot of things that factor in a kid’s decision to stay or go.  There is the injury risk, the possibility of bringing home a championship or a Heisman Trophy to your school, confidence in your ability.  Maybe you didn’t feel like you were ready for the fame and money.  Maybe Luck simply didn’t want to play in Carolina although I can think of worse places to spend your time than Charlotte, North Carolina.  Whatever the reason Luck made the decision and stuck with it.  The only problem when you make that decision is that you don’t have a crystal ball handy.  There are no doubt dozens of scenarios popping through your head in the time between when you make your decision and when everything actually plays itself out.  One of the most unlikeliest of scenarios is about to play itself out for Luck.

Newton replaced Luck as the #1 pick and took Carolina and the NFL by storm

Luck stayed in and Auburn QB Cam Newton came out.  Newton wasn’t as polished as Luck and he didn’t perform all that well at the NFL scouting combine but he had a world of upside.  With Luck out of the picture the Panthers had to decide if Newton could do the job they envisioned that Luck would do, anchor a rebuilding process that would bring a winning team to Carolina.  Ultimately the Panthers decided that Newton was in fact worth it and made him the 1st pick in the 2011 NFL draft.  Newton was lights out in his rookie year in Carolina.  He threw for 4,051 yards and ran for another 706.  He threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for another 14, giving him a grand total of 35 in his rookie season.  Newton looks to be the savior in Carolina and in his first year as starter he already bettered the Panthers by 5 wins.  Now if Luck was drafted by Carolina then Newton would have likely fell to the Buffalo Bills or Carolina Panthers.  If Newton got drafted by the Bills then Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t cash in on his multi-year, multi-million dollar contract halfway through last season.  Also the Bills wouldn’t have Marcell Dareus, a centerpiece to re-build their defense around during this off season.  If the Bills liked Dareus over Newton anyway than the Bengals at #4 would have selected him.  If they did than they wouldn’t have selected receiver A.J. Green with their first pick and they wouldn’t have selected quarterback Andy Dalton with their 2nd pick.  All Green and Dalton did this year was lead the Bengals to the playoffs, make the Pro Bowl, and finish 2nd and 3rd behind Newton in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Manning stood on the sidelines this year and will likely be replaced by Luck in Indy

Andrew Luck’s junior season played out almost as well as he could have hoped but he failed to reach both of his ultimate goals.  The Cardinal went 11-2 during the regular season but could only finish as the #4 team in the country and suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Then, for the second year in a row, Andrew Luck finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting.  Despite failing to reach his goals Luck stayed consistent and re-established himself as the prospective #1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.  Over in the NFL however things were playing out in a very different manner than what was expected.  Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was lost for the season to neck surgery right before the season and the Colts absolutely tanked.  They went 2-14 and secured the #1 pick in the NFL draft during the last week of the season.  Now the Colts plan on taking Andrew Luck and will likely jettison Peyton Manning rather than pay him a $28 million roster bonus in early March.  So Luck will replace Peyton Manning.  Peyton Manning wasn’t just an Indianapolis Colt, he was the Indianapolis Colts.  What makes matters worse is that things might get even uglier in Indy between Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay between now and early March and the strong likelihood is that Peyton will be playing in another city for another team while Luck tries to re-build the Colts.  Luck should probably seek advise from Eli Manning because Peyton will cast a rather large shadow on Luck during the early part of his career.

Every single thing that Andrew Luck does from here on out will be heavily scrutinized and put under the microscope.  For the past two years many pundits have called Andrew Luck the best quarterback prospect to come into the NFL since Peyton Manning.  Now not only will he have to continue to wear that mantle around his neck but he will have to literally step into Peyton’s shoes while wearing it.  And it all starts in two weeks at the annual NFL Scouting Combine held in, yup, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.  The house the Peyton built.  I guess if you are going to step into the arena you might as well go right into the lion’s den.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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