PALO ALTO – It was billed as Andrew Luck’s day.
But in reality, it was more about Luck taking care of his teammates and sharing the spotlight than making it all about himself.
Luck was on display Thursday on Stanford’s practice fields. There, the Cardinal quarterback showcased why many consider him as a stone-cold lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s 2012 NFL Draft.
However, the day turned to be just as much about Luck’s abilities as it was about his teammates standing out in front of more than 100 NFL talent evaluators on hand for Stanford’s pro day. The workout was also televised on multiple networks and had former 49ers quarterbacks turned ESPN analysts Steve Young and Trent Dilfer salivating on-air over Luck’s skill set.
Luck completed 46-of-50 throws during his field work. Considering Luck decided against throwing at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner up made good use of his pro day preparation.
Only one of his throws, an overthrow on a deep red zone corner route to wideout Chris Owusu, was errant on his part. The other three incompletions were drops by his receivers.
Still, Luck was focused on more than just completing passes. He wanted to show how athletic his pass catchers were by throwing higher than normal.
In fact, Luck’s second-to-last throw to tight end Coby Fleener was his proudest moment of the day.
“I wanted to give him a chance to really jump up there and show his hops, his stretch, what he can do in the red zone,” Luck said with a smile. “I’m secretly very proud of putting it in the right spot.”
In most cases, quarterbacks are supposed to make every throw as accurate as possible. But with Luck’s circumstance, all but guaranteed of being the No. 1 overall pick, the Stanford quarterback decided to challenge himself in the throwing drills.
“I’m in a very unique position. I feel very fortunate,” Luck said. “Obviously nothing is ever set in stone, but I think I’ll have a chance be drafted very high. Maybe a pro day is not going to hurt or help me as much as some of the other guys on our team so I wanted to go out there and really show the strengths of our receivers.
“If that means I have to throw a ball maybe I don’t have to or really want to throw, I’ll do it for those guys.”
Perhaps Luck’s biggest beneficiary of the day was Fleener, a top-flight tight end prospect, who could be the first drafted at his position come April.
Fleener didn’t work out at the combine, but ran unofficially 40-yard dash times of 4.51 and 4.56. Despite slightly rolling his ankle in three-cone drills, Fleener made the most of the throwing session with Luck, only dropping one pass on a seam route down the left hash marks. The rest of Fleener’s catches showcased the 6-foot-6, 244-pound tight end aggressively snatching the ball out of the air with his long arms and strong hands.
Afterwards, Luck was confident that NFL evaluators got a great impression of what Fleener can truly offer at the next level.
“I think speed, for one,” Luck said. “He can run, he can run fast, his jumping ability, his athleticism. In college he was a terrible matchup for safeties or linebackers or corners. I think that’ll continue on the next level.”
Luck and Fleener, considered to be first-round talents, could be joined in the round by two linemen teammates. Considered by many to be at the top of their respective positions, tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro continued to impress as they march towards the draft.
Martin, who has visits planned with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns in upcoming weeks, said his goal was to showcase his athleticism with the 10 added pounds he’s put on since the combine.
“Today I was to be able to put on a show in front of all these coaches, it was kind of circus out there with all these people,” Martin admitted. “I thought it was a pretty successful day.”
Martin wanted to prove he could still move and jump high with added weight to his 6-foot-6, 304-pound body. By all indications, Martin looked strong in drills and did nothing to derail his chances of being one of the first tackles taken in the draft.
His preference, however, is to play on the left side. But if a team wants Martin to move to the right side initially, that’s fine with him, too.
“I want to play left, that’s where I feel comfortable, but I’m hoping to play any position,” Martin said. “When it comes down to it, I want to play. I want to start for a team, doesn’t matter where they put me.”
DeCastro, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound guard, shares a similar no-nonsense attitude.
The mauling lineman didn’t go through testing drills at his pro day, but instead turned his focus to performing well in the field drills. DeCastro played center during Luck’s throwing session and looked comfortable snapping in the shotgun formation.
Asked if he was taken aback by the growth of Stanford’s pro day since he joined the program in 2008, DeCastro wasn’t exactly surprised by it, but said he didn’t let the scene distract his performance.
DeCastro said the program’s rise to national stardom was a gradual rise.
“We took it day-by-day,” said the guard prospect. “All the little stuff, it really builds up.”
All that little stuff, combined with one of the most sought after quarterbacks in draft history, added up to one unique afternoon in Palo Alto.
Luck, who looked like he could throw the ball wherever he wanted to do on the day (even 70 yards down the field when asked to do so at end of his workout by a pro scout in attendance), said it wasn’t exactly a perfect day.
“There’s still a couple hours in the day…” Luck said to a loud chuckle from the media. “but so far, so good.”