It comes with the territory. Top-shelf college quarterbacks are expected to enter the lair of Jon Gruden, the former NFL coach whose maniacal mien on the sideline earned him the nickname Chucky, after the villain of the Child's Play movies. Now an analyst on Monday Night Football, Gruden moonlights as an inquisitor and scold of future high picks on his ESPN predraft show Gruden's QB Camp. "This is disrespectful to Notre Dame," he chided Jimmy Clausen last year while screening an especially egregious interception. "Disrespectful to the quarterback position."
With his decision to forgo the 2011 NFL draft to play another season at Stanford, Andrew Luck did more than stick a thumb in the eye of conventional wisdom, thrill his extended family on the Farm, catapult himself to favorite status for the Heisman Trophy and vex a wide swath of draftniks and sports-talk bloviators, many of whom seemed downright affronted by Luck's decision. (Does he not realize he could get injured? Does he have something against capitalism?) The 6'4", 235-pound redshirt junior also postponed by a year his date with Gruden, a meeting that most likely wouldn't faze Luck much after his recent encounter with a far more formidable inquisitor.
Chucky, meet Charles.
Charles Renfro is a partner at the internationally acclaimed architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which was selected by Stanford in April to create a 90,000-square-foot arts center. Luck is majoring in architectural design, a program in the university's school of engineering. He took two studio classes last quarter, one of them taught by John Barton, director of the architecture program. One of the major projects Barton assigned his students—"It's actually a bit harder than I should be teaching," he says, without sounding remotely sorry—was to design their own versions of that arts center.
"At the beginning of the quarter we were given a blank site," Luck recalls. "It was like, 'O.K., here's your program. It's 90,000 square feet. Come up with something.' So you gotta delve into it, think about it, go through your process. You mess around, make some models. I guess you could equate it to coming up with a game plan. You look at a defense, find out what [your team] has done before, find out what other people have done, look at the precedents, find out if there's anything new or different to consider."
In a coup for Barton, Renfro agreed to spend a couple hours on May 3 critiquing the students' projects. Luck had made a series of models and sketched—by hand and on a computer—a pair of three-story structures. Between them were glass studio spaces positioned to allow sunlight to shine down to the basement of the arts center. "I had myself mentally prepared to get ripped up," Luck recalls, "but it was really constructive."
An arresting figure in his defiantly rumpled, wide-striped suit and stridently pink socks, Renfro complimented Luck and the two other students in his group on their "programming" and also spoke approvingly of a strategic "knuckle," or juncture, they'd designed. He noted "a disconnect" between the curved roof and the building—"something I was working on as recently as last night," said Luck recently, as he sat at a table outside the Yang and Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building, powering through a panini. When a visitor described that building as palatial, Luck shared a minor misgiving: "But there's not much of a discovery inside. You know that sensation you get when you turn a corner in a building and you're pleasantly surprised; you find something you weren't expecting—like a shroud being lifted? That's the discovery."
Here is the discovery likely to be made by Chucky (not Charles) about Luck: His gracious, unimposing facade conceals a leader and motivator every bit as effective as any face-mask-grabbing, alpha QB. Befitting a future franchise quarterback, Luck displayed the full array of physical tools the position requires in guiding the Cardinal to its finest-ever season. (Stanford went 12--1 in 2010, capping the year with a 40--12 smackdown of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.) But he also showed that when he wasn't deflecting credit or interspersing his remarks with a goofy laugh—more of a guffaw, really—to signal he's not taking himself too seriously, the cerebral Luck is also comfortable using more blunt, and sometimes blue, language to get a point across to his teammates. "He'll raise his voice if necessary," says Chase Beeler, Luck's center for the past two seasons, citing his fiery halftime oration in last year's USC game. "But his leadership has more to do with this aura around him. When you've got someone that talented, poised and confident, the poise and confidence rub off."
Elliot Allen was Luck's coach at Stratford High in Houston. "Everybody wants to talk about what he can do athletically," the coach says. "But with Andrew, the it factor is his knack for making people better, making them want to follow him. He wants his teammates to have success, wants them to get the credit. I've never seen anybody like him in that respect."
To make his point, Allen recalls how some college recruiters watching Spartans practices raised questions about Luck's arm strength. What they didn't realize was that Luck was tailoring his throws. "If he was going to one of his better receivers, he'd zip it in there," says Allen. But if the pass was intended for a teammate who didn't catch quite as well, "Andrew would take something off it, although he would never admit that, because he wouldn't want to embarrass that kid."