Good Catch: Andrew Luck Changes the Play with Riley Hospital

He tackles kids’ health—revealing some surprising habits of his own along the way.

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Photo by Tony Valainis

You already know Andrew Luck excels at just about everything on the field. But it turns out he’s a pretty good choice to quarterback an off-the-field drive, too.

For the past three years, Luck has worked with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health on a program aimed at encouraging kids to make smart choices when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and general health and well-being. But the 24-year-old Luck doesn’t just lend his name and likeness to Change the Play; his fingerprints are all over the eight-week online challenge, which just wrapped up an in-school component after expanding to all Indiana elementary and middle schools this fall. And working with kids—whether during visits to area schools or at Riley Hospital, where he tutors patients in math and reading on his off days—seems like a natural fit. “When you play a sport as a profession, it’s a kid’s game,” says Luck. “I’m not grown up by any means, and so sometimes I relate better to kids than to older folks.”

When Luck first arrived in Indy, he explored the city and was struck by IU Health’s footprint and Riley’s iconic red-wagon logo. Given the Colts’ history of involvement in the community, he says, the partnership just made sense. “More and more I realize that I have a platform as a professional athlete. It doesn’t need to be your life’s mission to effect some type of change—especially where kids are concerned,” he says. And some personal encouragement from a star athlete like Luck goes a long way. Riley president and CEO Jeff Sperring, M.D., loves that the Stanford grad takes school and reading seriously and encourages kids to hit the books.

Change the Play’s weekly challenges, which range from meal-planning to trying a new activity to encouraging family members to do something healthy, embody a kind of old-school simplicity yet address modern problems kids face. Pediatric health experts from Riley consult on the challenges—they recommended focusing on elementary- and middle-school students because they notice kids want to start making their own decisions around age 11. Luck wanted to make the challenges general enough for all kids, not just athletes, and now he pays attention to  health trends in the news; after watching the documentary Fed Up, he asked the doctors about the growing concern of high sugar content in children’s diets.

On a recent visit to St. Richard’s Episcopal School, Luck punctuated talking points with stories from his youth, telling students about growing up abroad and playing outside with his siblings. “I’m a big believer in diversifying your game—do something different,” he says. “Try a different sport. I strongly believe that playing different sports helped me to become a better football player. If I had to play football year-round since I was 10, I guarantee I would not be doing it now.”

» VIDEO: See the kids interview Luck.

 Video by Darryl Smith

 

Luck says he tries to live the healthy lifestyle he preaches to the students, but he’s not immune to temptation now and then. “I’m a sucker for desserts,” he says. “I try to stay away from processed foods, but if someone is making cookies or cake, yeah, I’m a sucker. But I realize that and limit myself.”

Even with his busy schedule and high expectations, Luck says he tries to get nine hours of sleep every night. “Sleep is something I’ve become vigilant about,” he says. “I really do try to be a nine-hour-a-night guy, and I’m cranky if I’m not. Realistically, it’s more like eight.”

Other things just come easier to Luck, especially turning off his cell phone at night. It helps that in lieu of a smart phone with a seductive big screen and alluring apps, he still uses a flip-phone, which he sometimes shows to students during Change the Play events.

“That’s not a prop,” he says. “That’s my phone.”

He admits, though, that it’s also his alarm clock, and even those of us guilty of the same know better. But that’s okay. Expecting perfection, after all, isn’t very healthy.

 

1114-LittleColtsFanChange the Play: By the Numbers

70  Pounds one child lost after participating in Change the Play

93  Indiana schools registered in Change the Play this year, up from 27 last year

17,200  Children who have taken part in the eight-week challenge since it launched in 2013

Any child can participate in Change the Play challenges by visiting iuhealth.org/changetheplay.

 

Working with students like the ones from St. Richard's Episcopal School is child's play, says Luck.
Working with students like the ones from St. Richard’s Episcopal School is child’s play, says Luck.

Photo by Tony Valainis

 

 

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