There’s no denying it—sports are an important part of life for Oliver Luck and his family. But if you think that success on the athletic field is the be-all and end-all for this former Houston Oilers quarterback, then you’re not seeing the whole picture.
The focus sharpens when you learn that Oliver is a Phi Beta Kappa and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and two-time academic All-American while starring for the University of West Virginia from 1978 to 1981. He later graduated with honors from UT law school. Things become even more clear when you hear Oliver talk about the value of education and the enjoyment that he draws from being a part of the Memorial community and watching his children thrive in the local school system.
Oliver’s oldest son Andrew, 18, has excelled both in the classroom and on the football field at Stratford High School. He will be attending Stanford University this fall because of his desire to be that rarest of phenomena these days—a true “student-athlete.” “He decided early on,” notes his father, “with some encouragement from his parents, that academics was really important.”
The rest of the Luck clan is also active in athletics. Sixteen-year-old Mary Ellen is a volleyball standout at Stratford High, while Emily, 14, was recently named female athlete of the year at Memorial Middle School. Ten-year-old Addison also enjoys a variety of sports.
Kathy Luck shares her husband’s strong feelings about the importance of education and is active in the community program, Literacy Advance of Houston, which helps adults improve their reading and writing skills. Also a strong supporter of her children’s athletic endeavors, Kathy estimates that she sees about 250 games a year.
Among the most enjoyable outings for both Oliver and Kathy Luck has been watching Andrew and his friends play football at Stratford. “High school football is a great institution,” says Oliver. “It is particularly gratifying because the old-timers come out and watch, and people with no kids will come out and watch. There’s a little bit of continuity, and that’s not the case in a lot of school districts.”
And Oliver Luck is keenly aware that not all of the lessons of high school are learned in the classroom.
“It’s a good thing for those kids to learn to win gracefully and learn to lose because nobody wins them all in life. Athletics are great in terms of teaching kids that life is competitive, and you’ve got to win with dignity and lose with a certain amount of grace.”
Oliver’s outlook goes over big with people like Stratford High School principal Christopher Juntti. “He’s such a stable, low-key guy. He has the right focus and he expects a lot of his kids, but he’s not the dad who is out there screaming at his kid or coaching him during the game.”
Kathy Luck seconds that notion, adding that her husband strikes just the right balance as a father. “He doesn’t push anybody, but he is very supportive,” says Kathy. “He has a great relationship with all four of our children, and is always there for them. Just a great dad—they’re very lucky.”
This is the second go-round in Houston for Oliver Luck, who was drafted by the Oilers in 1982 and played five seasons, primarily as a back-up to Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon. He then went overseas and worked for NFL Europe. Upon resettling in Houston, the Lucks became fixtures in their Memorial neighborhood. “Houston changed a lot while I was gone,” Oliver admits. “It became much more sophisticated and diverse, and business really expanded.”
Oliver himself had a huge hand in Houston business (in particular—sports business) not only expanding, but exploding. It was on his watch as the CEO of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority that Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium, and Toyota Center were built. He then helped the city secure a professional soccer team, and eventually took on the task of serving as president of the Houston Dynamo.
When not calling the shots for the two-time MLS champions, Oliver enjoys gardening and catching up on some “light” reading. Recently he has finished books on China and medieval Europe. “I’ve always believed that it is beneficial to learn things for the sake of learning,” says Oliver. “You have a wider perspective on things. Every business person, every person period, needs to have an extraneous impulse to give you an idea to try something that comes out of a totally different field.”
Oliver Luck is motivated by a thirst for intellectual growth, as well as the basic rewards that come from family and community. If athletics happen to be a key component, then so much the better, but Oliver knows they are not the true measure of a man.