Enrolling at Stanford may have been the best decision Andrew Luck ever made.
Not enrolling at Stanford seems to have worked out equally well for Robert Griffin III.
The quarterbacks will be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NFL draft on Thursday night, with Luck going first to the Indianapolis Colts, then Griffin — the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor — set to be picked by the Washington Redskins. So again, as they have plenty of times in recent months, Luck and Griffin will share the spotlight.
Just think — they almost shared a locker room, too.
And if they had, then maybe none of this would be happening.
"Looking back on it, it worked out really well for both those youngsters," said Jim Harbaugh, the coach who tried to pull it off.
The story starts in 2007, when Griffin got a tantalizing offer from Stanford. In short, if he committed to the Cardinal, then the Cardinal would commit to trying a two-quarterback system with him and Luck. Harbaugh — now the coach of the San Francisco 49ers — was Stanford's coach at the time, and after spending about an hour in his office chatting with Griffin came away with a strong inkling that he would win that recruiting battle.
A month later, the phone rang. It was Griffin. He apologized and said he was planning to enroll at Houston, where coach Art Briles was recruiting him. (When Briles went to Baylor, Griffin followed.)
"Thought we were really doing well with Robert," Harbaugh said. "Loved looking at his transcript. He was a 4.0 student in high school. His test scores were extremely high. I mean, this to me was a Stanford guy. This was a Stanford kid. And then ... he was going to go to Houston. That left a bruise. I really liked Robert. I really wanted Robert on our team. And I've been a big fan of his ever since."
Griffin had offers from plenty of schools, from Harvard to Texas and countless spots in between. Stanford, he said, was tempting.
"I thought about it, but when you look at it, two-quarterback systems hardly ever work," Griffin said a few weeks ago. "So I had to make the right call for myself at that time."
A good call for both players, as it turned out.
Luck went 31-7 at Stanford, winning more games in those three years than the Cardinal won in the previous seven combined. Griffin threw for 59 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Baylor, completing 72 percent of his passes as a senior and winning the Heisman. And although no one can say for certain how the Luck-Griffin pairing with the Cardinal might have worked, no one can dispute the quarterbacks did just fine on their own as well.
"They were two of the best kids I ever recruited," Harbaugh said. "We got one, one we didn't. Certainly Andrew came in and did everything that we expected and more and led his team, led Stanford to heights that the school has never seen before. I mean, compare the won-loss record of Stanford before Andrew Luck got there and while he was there. It's a pretty big contrast. Same with RG3. Look at him at Baylor. He did the same thing there."
It will be the first time since 1999 that quarterbacks will be both the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft, so it's clear that a pairing like Luck and Griffin doesn't come around every day.
If both went to Stanford, it almost certainly would have played out much differently, of course.
"There's only one ball out there at a time," Harbaugh said.
Luck is considered the prototypical quarterback type — 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, son of former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck. Griffin was a state champion sprinter in high school, and opponents may fear his legs as much as his arm at the pro level, just as teams did in the college ranks.
Their styles seem wildly different.
That's not even close, Harbaugh insists.
"Really, the perception isn't that relevant," Harbaugh said. "But they're both great athletes. I wouldn't even compare them. They're both great. They're both extremely smart. They're both extremely athletic. Both, great arm strength. Both throw the ball accurately. They're both really good."
For at least another year, Harbaugh can keep rooting for both from afar. Barring a postseason matchup, his 49ers won't be seeing the Colts or the Redskins in the 2012 season.
And come draft night, he will be watching.
"Neat to be a small part of it," Harbaugh said.
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