PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — On the few occasions when ESPN decides to quit talking about Tim Tebow, the NFL subject matter of choice becomes Andrew Luck.
Stanford players will turn up the volume on the televisions in their locker room back in Palo Alto, Calif.
And Stanford's quarterback will turn them off.
Luck is doing his best to keep the hoopla at a minimum as he nears his final college game, the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State on Monday night. His teammates are doing their part.
Those turned-up TVs? Luck's Cardinal teammates weren't interested in hearing. They were interested in busting their good pal, who has gone from incognito Stanford student to the most ballyhooed NFL prospect since Peyton Manning or John Elway, depending on which lovestruck scout you talk to.
“I don't live in a cave, so I hear things, watch and see things, whatever,” Luck said. “I think when you are surrounded by good teammates, if you get on a high horse, thinking about things you are not supposed to be thinking about, they did do a good job of keeping ourselves grounded.”
Luck doesn't live in a cave, but he does live on the Farm, as Stanford's campus is called, a haven of academia, largely void of athletic hero worship. Which means Luck is somewhat insulated from things like the NFL's fascination with a quarterback who has all the tools to be the league's next big star.
For instance, Luck knows about the Suck for Luck campaign — the Colts lost their first 13 games and appeared certain to secure the No. 1 pick of the draft. But Luck claimed Wednesday that he didn't even know that the Rams have slipped into contention for the pick.
“I didn't even know who the other team was,” Luck said. “Who knows if I will be the first pick or not? That's a lot of time until then. I don't really think about it.”
Luck is billed as a too-good-to-be-true NFL prospect. He comes across that way in person, too. Smart, pleasant, unassuming. Impressive guy. Very impressive.
“One of the best I've ever seen at gracefully handling being a media darling,” said Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
Luck is comfortable talking football schemes or architecture (his major at Stanford).
When someone told him that greater Phoenix was a quasi-home to the late architecture legend Frank Lloyd Wright, Luck talked about Taliesin West, Wright's winter home in Scottsdale.
When asked about his interest in stadiums, he talked of traveling when his dad worked for NFL Europe and seeing old coliseums, like London's Highbury Park, and how he was interested in the different feels of various arenas.
“Andrew's a very impressive young man,” said Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. “Take football away from Andrew, and still he has the personality and character to become president of the United States some day.
“Just tremendous poise. An overall sense of maturity that's probably not expected of a college kid.”
But don't get the idea that Luck is all business. That he's all football and all school.
Stanford all-American guard David DeCastro describes his quarterback as “goofy.” He says it endearingly, because that's how Luck was when he showed up as a freshman from Houston 3 1/2 years ago.
“He hasn't changed a bit,” DeCastro said. “Still goofy. Free-spirited. Does what he wants and doesn't care what people think.
“He does a pretty good job of making fun of himself.”
And now Luck is at the Fiesta Bowl, Stanford's second straight BCS game after making just one major bowl between 1971 and 2010.
“For me, college football is important,” Luck said. “I came back to play college football. It wasn't too hard to maybe push those distractions aside and focus on winning college football games and understanding whatever happens, the next level will happen.
“There is time to think about it after the season and prepare for that. Right now, I would be doing a disservice to the university, the coaches, the players by getting caught up in that hoopla.”
So it's left for the constant noise of the NFL to debate Luck's future past Monday night. Will the Colts get the No. 1 pick? Will they trade it? Will they team Manning and Luck together? Will the Rams get the pick? What does that mean for Sam Bradford?
“My preferences haven't changed,” Luck said. “Wherever I land, it will be great. I am not rooting for one team to win or lose or whatever. So I'm not going to say I don't care about it because I do care about football. Wherever I end up, I'm sure it will be the best spot for me.”
Just as the Farm that serves as a cave was the best spot for Luck in 2011.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.