STANFORD (CBS / AP) — With a week to wait to learn the program’s postseason fate and the announcement of the Heisman Trophy finalists, Stanford’s David Shaw is playing more politics than football at the moment.
The first-year head coach delivered a vivid visual presentation to reporters Tuesday, giving an in-depth look at Andrew Luck’s talents and unique play-calling responsibilities. He also stumped for Luck on a national teleconference and pleaded with voters to look beyond statistics, study how Luck runs the offense and what he has meant to college football this season.
“The thing is, the campaign for Andrew Luck started the day he came back,” Shaw said. “And it didn’t start by us. He was the face of college football for the entire offseason. He was the face of college football when there were scandals and all this upheaval and there’s all these things going on. He shouldn’t be penalized because he has been critiqued more than any other player.
“He was the one positive story for the entire offseason.”
While Luck is unanimously projected as the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, winning college football’s most prestigious award is far less certain. Toby Gerhart and Luck also finished second the last two years, and Shaw would rather not leave anything to chance.
So he turned his weekly roundtable with reporters into a Heisman blitz.
Shaw moved into an auditorium and had a projector complete with a multimedia staff during a 30-minute presentation broadcast live on the Stanford website. Photos of the bronze statue and Luck stiff-arming a Notre Dame defender—mimicking the Heisman pose— provided the backdrop to Shaw’s speech.
Shaw trumpeted Luck’s level of input—even downplaying the coach’s responsibilities—over the offense, describing in detail what he believes makes the quarterback different from any other player in the nation.
Luck takes 270-300 plays into every game, and every game the calls are different. About half of those are written on his wristband and a lineman’s wristband. The rest are from memory.
All Shaw does is call the formation and three plays for Luck to take to the line of scrimmage, and Luck still has the option to audible to a fourth. The quarterback makes the final decision.
The complexity of Stanford’s playbook—which Shaw said is thicker than any other college program he has seen—is hard to underestimate. An example of one call Luck takes to the line: “Green Right Slot: Z Counter, 96 Tango Edge, Kill Spider 2, Y Banana Reno Alert, 6 Zeus.”
“Try remembering that,” Shaw said. “I studied quarterbacks for nine years in the NFL. I’ve never heard of a quarterback doing this in college. Never seen it. Never heard it. It’s a lot of words to comprehend. This is not statistics. This is a guy deciding what we do, and he does it better than anybody.”
Oh, Shaw also had statistics.
Luck has lifted No. 4 Stanford (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) to consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time and owns every major school passing record. The Cardinal are in position for a second straight BCS bowl—this for a losing program when Luck arrived—and are in the top five of every major offensive category.
Stanford also has had the fewest negative plays in the nation, scored on 63 of 64 trips to the red zone and Luck threw 26 touchdown passes with no turnovers inside the 20-yard line—and did it all without the benefit of a standout wide receiver, utilizing tight ends and fullbacks to create space without speed.
All that still might not be enough.
Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, Houston’s Case Keenum and Southern California’s Matt Barkley all could argue they had better seasons than Luck. Shaw counters by noting every player has at least one loss, and by contending that Luck is the best player in the nation and the program would be lost without him.
What Shaw also points to is the way Luck has carried himself this season, a humble student in every sense who would rather deflect attention than be the center of it. Shaw even had to sit Luck down this week and tell him to stop downplaying his skills, and practically apologized to the quarterback ahead of his media saturation.
“Andrew hates this stuff,” Shaw said.
With a child-sex abuse scandal still rocking Penn State, another surfacing with the Syracuse men’s basketball program and allegations of a former Miami booster paying for parties and prostitutes—among other things—for Hurricanes players, Shaw believes Luck should be getting more attention for what he has done off the field.
Luck risked millions of dollars by returning to school to finish his degree in architectural design. While he could be driving a luxury vehicle, Luck pedals a bike around the Silicon Valley campus and his cellphone is so outdated it doesn’t even have a calendar.
Shaw believes a phrase from the Heisman Trust’s mission statement—“the pursuit of excellence with integrity”—defines Luck best.
“I think there are a lot of voters, and some of them I know, who take that line very seriously,” Shaw said. “When you become the Heisman Trophy winner, you enter an exclusive club. And these guys, they get together every year and they look at each other, and they know it’s an exclusive club. They think in those terms. They want somebody who can represent college football and represent the Heisman name the right way.
“In my humble opinion, Andrew is the prime candidate for that.”
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