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On the field, he is as aggressive and intimidating as they come. Away from the gridiron, Junior Luke has characteristics more similar to his first name of that of a gentle giant. With that, it’s no surprise he majored in Social Work and wants to pursue that career avenue once football comes to an end.
“I originally wanted to become a physical education teacher but didn’t have the grades,” explained the Lions’ new first round draft pick.
“It (social work) came about after I started coaching young kids at my university. I had a lot of good feedback from parents telling me I was doing a good job and the kids liked me too. I started getting interested in it.”
Wally Buono, Neil McEvoy and Geroy Simon certainly picked up on these attributes at the CFL Combine in March. After proving himself as one of the top defensive line prospects- he especially stood out during the one on one drills in Regina- the Lions brass knew they had to move him near the top of their draft board. When the University of Montreal Carabins product was available at number seven, they knew what they had to do.
“We didn’t hesitate at all,” said McEvoy after the draft on May 7th. “Junior is an athlete that is also a big man. We felt that playing professional football he would have a step up on other people because of his athletic ability.”
As Junior puts the coaching aside to focus on his latest goal of cracking the Lions’ active roster, he can take comfort in the fact a few familiar faces will be with him in Kamloops. Along with 3rd round pick Frederic Chagnon, defensive lineman David Menard and offensive lineman David Foucault are ex-teammates of Luke with the Carabins.
“I have talked to Menard a little bit. We spoke about the defence and the stadium, just small stuff,” explained Luke.
“I didn’t ask him too many questions. He told me I would be fine. I will be with him throughout the whole camp so I will be able to understand what’s going on. I was thrilled to be drafted but at the same time I knew David was going to be there and then we drafted Frederic too. We have chemistry together and are also great friends so hopefully we can get better and help out the team.”
The four Carabins, sounds like a good moniker for the crew already, already have an idea of what it takes to win. Luke and Chagnon were members of the 2014 squad that brought the University its first ever Vanier Cup Championship. Both rookies, along with fellow 2017 draftee Nate Hamlin, attended a New York Giants mini-camp last weekend.
You can bet that extra work will prove to be beneficial when they hit the field in Kamloops for training camp practices next week. After all, improving sack totals and getting to the quarterback will be at the top of Buono and the coaching staff’s priority list.
Luke’s style should provide yet another option as the club looks to re-tinker a unit, which lost its 2016 sack leader Alex Bazzie. Luke is ready to prove himself.
“I think I bring speed and explosiveness on the line of scrimmage,” stated Luke.
“Once I know what I am doing I can play fast. I watched a lot of tape at University and will continue to do that in camp. I think I will have the chance to play and make a difference but that’s going to depend on what I do on the field. We’ll see during camp.”
At the end of the day it is all about proving to the organization they made the right call when it came to their second pick in the first round. It is a moment he won’t soon forget.
“My Mom was very happy. It’s a huge moment for anybody. You don’t really know what to say, you just enjoy it. At the same time you have to understand it’s all about proving yourself after. I am happy but the real work is only beginning.”
And when the drills and days get tough he knows he can look at his mentorship of young kids as motivation.
“I wanted to show not just kids but other people that someone like me can go through a lot and be able to achieve their goals. I just wanted to have fun and be happy with what I can do. Playing football is what I wanted to do but first and foremost I just wanted to be happy at anything I did.”
Although we have a hunch whatever post-playing career he chooses will have to wait a few years, perhaps he will make a good coach one day as well.
Matt Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org