This season the NFL has been dogged by domestic abuse scandals, a DEA investigation into painkiller abuse, and ever-present worries about the long-term damage caused by concussions. So, maybe it’s not surprising that when a report surfaced this week about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the sports world stood up and took notice.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Clark is the investigator who uncovered the truth about Mr. Luck and he joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: Kevin, your report accused Andrew Luck of some pretty unusual behavior. Describe his on-the-field demeanor for me, please.
KC: He's unlike anybody in football, in that when he gets hit, and when he gets hit hard, he congratulates the person who did it. He gets sacked quite a bit actually this year, and his customary thing is to get up and say, "Hey great job! What a hit!" And the defenders who have encountered this sort of behavior have no idea what to do with it. But he does it constantly. There is no defender who hasn't levied a big hit against Mr. Luck and not been congratulated.
I think he's destined to be the best quarterback in the NFL in four or five years.Kevin Clark, Wall Street Journal
BL: My favorite detail from your piece comes from Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan who described his sack of Andrew Luck. That sack resulted in a fumble, so Luck was a little too busy to offer his congratulations right away. But that wasn’t the end of the story, right?
KC: No. So Kerrigan sacks Luck, Luck loses the ball, can't really talk to Kerrigan after the play. That's sort of the end of it. However, Andrew Luck looped around later in the game to congratulate him on the sack and say, "You're doing a great job today." And Kerrigan had no clue what to do with that — the idea that Luck would seek him out later in the game, while the game was going on.
Kerrigan spoke about this, and one of the things he said was that after it happened he was so confused, he found Trent Murphy — who played with Luck at Stanford and now plays for Washington — he found him on the sideline and said, "What is Andrew Luck doing?" And Trent Murphy responded, "Yeah, that's kind of his thing."
BL: Within hours of the publication of your story, sports news organizations were quoting you and asking other NFL players for reaction. Why do you think a silly story about a polite quarterback has gotten such incredible response?
KC: I can't put my finger on it. This is probably the most popular story that we've had since I joined the NFL beat in 2012. I can't understand it. I think that it's because A.) I don't think a lot of people know a lot about Andrew Luck, so they want to learn about him — he's a rising star, this is his third season, and I think he's destined to be the best quarterback in the NFL in four or five years.
[sidebar title="49ers Cut McDonald During Rape Investigation" width="630" align="right"]San Francisco cut lineman Ray McDonald Wednesday after police investigated him for the second time this year.[/sidebar]I also think it's just different. The NFL has gotten so hammered, but there's still a lot of people who love the NFL despite the domestic violence problems and the DEA investigation — all of the things the NFL has screwed up this year.
There's still a little bit of goodness in the NFL. And this kind of nerdy guy, who's just way too nice — quite frankly, probably too nice for the NFL — the fact that this person exists, I think really excites people.
BL: Is it possible that Andrew Luck is behaving this way because he wants people to figure, "Oh man, I can't hit that guy again"?
KC: That is possible. One thing that got cut from the story, which I think is the best theory, is that Nolan Carroll, the defensive back for the Eagles, who told the story of rushing Luck from the edge and hearing, "Great job, Nolan," and then just sort of spinning around because he was looking for who it was because it couldn't possibly be the quarterback, and then it was the quarterback.
He told that story, but he said he thinks that Luck does it because he loves the game and because he's a very nice guy, but there's about 20 percent of him that wants you to know that he's going to get off the turf and he's going to throw a touchdown on the next play. I don't think he's trying to bait them into being nicer — I think he's trying to let you know, "I am a mountain."
More Only A Game NFL Coverage:
This segment aired on December 20, 2014.