Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 9, 2011

Busy week for Luck on the awards' circuit

Cardinal QB could win as many as five national honors after already being named Unitas Golden Arm Award winner

by Rick Eymer

If Andrew Luck was so inclined, he would never have needed a publicist for his campaign to win the Heisman Trophy, which will be announced Saturday on ESPN some time after 5 p.m.

Luck is one of five finalists up for the award along with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. One requirement for the Heisman is that "winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."

The voters include 870 media representatives from six regions across the country, every living Heisman winner, and one overall fan vote through a promotion.

There are at least two straw votes, taken from a survey of Heisman voters, which predict Griffin winning the award with Luck second.

Luck avoids any such Heisman talk as if it was a blitzing safety and defers to his teammates in all things Stanford football. He is more inclined to speak glowingly of guys like Menlo-Atherton grad Sam Knapp, the walk-on wide receiver who will be participating in his third bowl game as a Cardinal on Jan. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl, against Oklahoma State, in Glendale, Ariz., just west of Phoenix.

Luck just won't promote himself in any way, shape or form. He was happier talking about Owen Marecic's 10th-place showing in last year's Heisman voting than his own runner-up finish.

It's a good thing his teammates aren't as shy about publicity. Stanford linebacker Jared Lancaster was once asked what was different about Luck this year from last year.

"I don't know," he slyly said. "He's still perfect."

Luck's best ally is Stanford safety Michael Thomas, who grew up in Houston, not far from the Luck household, and watched him develop, as a rival, from his earliest stages into the quarterback who led Stanford to a 23-2 record over the past two seasons.

"When we were being recruited, and just from watching some of the guys who were up for the award then, to me he was better than any of the guys who were being talked about," said Thomas, who was a high school quarterback. "I don't believe in all the hype, but I honestly thought he could win the Heisman Trophy some day. I knew his character. He's a natural born leader who will be great wherever he goes."

Thomas and Luck also competed against each other in basketball and Thomas once acknowledged he committed to Stanford when he found out Luck was also headed there.

"More important than being in a BCS bowl game is being able to come back and practice another month with your guys," Luck said. "Obviously winning adds to it, but being with the guys makes it special."

It's already been a busy week for Stanford football players in respect to postseason accolades, including Luck, who will pick up his Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on Friday night in Baltimore before heading to New York for the Heisman announcement.

Luck also was scheduled to be in Lake Buena Vista (Fla.) for the naming of the Camp, Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards.

The Walter Camp Player of the Year recipient is voted on by the Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors. Luck was joined by fellow finalists Griffin, Richardson, Mathieu and Houston quarterback Case Keenum.

Finalists for the Maxwell Award for the Collegiate Player of the Year also include Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore and Richardson.

Griffin, Keenum and Luck are up for the Davey O'Brien Award, presented annually to the nation's best college quarterback.

Stanford offensive lineman David DeCastro joined Luck in Lake Buena Vista for Thursday's announcement of the Outland Trophy winner, awarded to the best interior lineman in college football by the Football Writers Association of America. DeCastro was joined by fellow finalists Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still.

Offensive lineman Jonathan Martin found out Wednesday whether he won the Rotary Lombardi Award, voted on by all Division I coaches, sports media personnel from across the country and former winners and finalists of the award, at the Reliant Center in Houston.

Cardinal receiver Griff Whalen has his own trip scheduled, to Springdale, Ark., for the Burlsworth Trophy ceremony. The trophy honors the most outstanding college player who started his career as a walk-on. Southern Mississippi quarterback Austin Davis and odds-on favorite Houston receiver Patrick Edwards are also finalists.

Georgia Tech lineman Sean Bedford won the inaugural award last year.

Stanford coach David Shaw, meanwhile, was named one of five regional FBS coaches of the year by the American Football Coaches Association, and is now a finalist for national coach of the year. Shaw introduced Martin on Wednesday, attended Thursday's event in Florida and will join Luck in Baltimore and New York.

Also up for national honors are Defensive Coordinator Derek Mason, a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, named for the top collegiate assistant; Pep Hamilton, one of three finalists for the Football Scoop Quarterbacks Coach of the Year; and Brian Polian, one of MaxPreps' six assistants of the year.

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