In April, Andrew Luck became the 76th NFL player drafted with the 1st overall pick. Twelve times in 15 seasons, a quarterback has been selected.
Expectations are extremely high for top draft picks. Eli Manning met high expectations when he first became a Giant following his #1 selection and subsequent trade from the Chargers to Big Blue. The same is true for Mark Sanchez, for whom the Jets traded up and picked #5 overall in the 2009 draft. After all, teams invest significant time—as well as millions of dollars—in them. This holds true for the Indianapolis Colts and their new stud quarterback.
In his first season as a redshirt freshman, Luck led Stanford to its first winning season and its first bowl game in seven years. He followed up that successful campaign with his best college season in 2010, when he led the Cardinals to the program's highest single season win total (12) and won the Orange Bowl. His four-touchdown MVP effort brought Stanford its first bowl victory in over a decade.
Following the Colts' first practice this year, head coach Chuck Pagano praised his young quarterback as “unflappable” and a “natural leader” on the field. His performance in the 2012 preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams was impressive. Luck's first pass as a pro went for a 63-yard touchdown. Ironically, his predecessor, Peyton Manning, tossed a TD in his first professional throw in the preseason as well (a 48-yard strike to Marvin Harrison).
What key qualities comprise Luck’s leadership skills?
Leading by Example
Many of the best leaders are the quiet ones who let their actions do the talking. Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop who will go down as one of the team's greatest players, is certainly one. In the new issue of Korn/Ferry's Briefings on Talent & Leadership Sports, Luck noted, “Showing you’re good at football is the quickest way to gain respect as a leader.”
Luck emphasizes that the best way to build trust is to go through the daily grind with teammates. He credits this ideology to his Stratford High School football coach, Elliot Allen. He also notes that by playing youth sports, one learns that “hard work pays off and if you work at something – you get better at it.”
Despite his tremendous talent and some comparisons to John Elway, Luck’s new teammates find him to be extraordinarily humble. Colts defensive end, Dwight Freeney told the Indianapolis Star, “He’s a humble guy, which will take him far.”
Despite predictions that he would leave school early and possibly be the top overall pick in 2011, Luck opted to finish his B.A. in architectural design at Stanford. By doing so, he bypassed a guaranteed contract worth millions in order to finish his education.
This year’s NFL scouting combine confirmed Luck has the physical skill set needed to succeed at the next level. That's not enough. High profile quarterbacks such as JaMarcus Russell, Joey Harrington, and Tim Couch all performed well in college and then produced disappointing NFL careers.
Andrew Luck certainly has the qualities of a good quarterback. However, his intelligence and leadership abilities will script his success. He turned around a disappointing Stanford football program from a single win team in 2006 to a Top 5 football program in 2010. In the NFL, he will be asked to revive the Colts.
The road to success is tough at the professional level. However, Andrew Luck has leadership ability and confidence in his team. He believes “if everyone has a common goal, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find a way to achieve that common goal.”
A native of Newark, Jed Hughes is Vice Chair of Korn/Ferry and the leader of the executive search firm's Global Sports Practice. Among his high profile placements are Mark Murphy, CEO of the Green Bay Packers; Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference; and Brady Hoke, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Earlier in his career, Mr. Hughes coached for two decades in professional and intercollegiate football where he served under five Hall of Fame coaches: Bo Schembechler (Michigan), Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bud Grant (Minnesota Vikings), John Ralston (Stanford) and Terry Donahue (UCLA). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.