by Simon Jolly
Fortunately for the self-esteem of renaissance men throughout the western world, Andrew Luck is a terrible cricketer.
See below for a picture gallery of Indianapolis Colts’ players Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener trying their hand at cricket.
Stanford graduate, storied College athlete, overall No.1 draft pick and starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts in his rookie season (2012) replacing multiple league and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning in the process no less.
Luck is tall, athletic, bright, hard-working and surprisingly cosmopolitan. He is, however, less gifted with cricket bat in hand despite spending part of his childhood in London, a result of his father Oliver’s previous involvement with NFL Europe.
At the end of the Luck Skills Camp – a day-long event hosted at the O2 SoccerDome in south London back in April – Luck and fellow Colt teammate Coby Fleener took turns to belt tennis balls into low earth orbit from the bowling of NFL UK’s Neil Reynolds’ young son George.
Or, in Luck’s case, swing wildly without actually making contact.
While Luck has the more storied history and well-documented physical gifts, Fleener is significantly more adept with bat in hand.
The two Stanford alumni were not, however, in London to indulge in pick up cricket matches.
The Luck Skills Camp, the first one, jointly run by both Andrew and Oliver, with able assistance from Fleener, gave a select group of British College American footballers the opportunity to learn passing and receiving skills from three men with first-hand experience of the NFL.
Drawn back to these shores by his fondness for the UK, Luck viewed the camp not just as a way of passing on his experience to eager young players outside the US but also as a way to refine his own thinking about the game. As he says, “you learn things the best when you have to teach them.”
Supported by Oliver’s considerable experience at virtually every level of the game, including five years in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, Andrew’s enthusiasm for educating the next generation is evident.
While leaving Fleener to look after a group of receivers, along with Tony Allen, Jeremy Sims and other coaches from the London Warriors British American Football League (BAFL) team, both father and son focused on helping the quarterbacks, providing fascinating titbits on improving technique.
Andrew Luck’s own throwing technique is remarkably compact and efficient; something his father had a hand in. “I have these fond memories, primarily in Germany, of taking him out in the front yard and playing catch”, says Oliver, who is the current Director of Intercollegiate Athletes at West Virginia University. “The younger a kid is the less he realises he’s being taught.”
Fortunately for Andrew, his teacher was a former NFL quarterback. “I told his baseball coach; ‘this kid’s going to throw differently, but its okay’,” recalls Oliver. “Don’t use that long, drawn-out pitcher’s throwing motion, but throw from your ear.”
Oliver’s eye for technical excellence is clearly reflected in the way his son plays and coaches.
When asked what natural abilities he picked up on during the camp amongst Fleener’s group of receivers, Andrew replied: “Smoothness – that’s what Reggie Wayne does so well. Also fluidity – the ability to get in and out of cuts.”
Interestingly, those skills he picks out for a good quarterback to flourish are not just the ability to throw the football, but also presence. “A good presence is always necessary,” said the 24-year-old quarterback, who then passed on the advice he got on leadership from his Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. “Lead within your own personality”.
More Luck Skills Camps are planned for the future but for now London’s University and College players have the benefit of Andrew’s first foray into coaching.
Both Andrew and Oliver are keen themselves to run more, but for their first joint outing the obvious choice was to return to familiar territory.
As Andrew observed with a smile and dry wit; “Lucky Londoners!”