Highlights putting Luc on the map
Editor's Note: This story appears in the September 2009 South Florida issue of ESPN RISE Magazine
All it took was one highlight tape for the secret to get out.
In November of 2008, Treasure Coast (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) inside linebacker Jeff Luc completed a breakout junior campaign for the Titans. He tallied 112.5 tackles and 22 tackles for loss with nine sacks and five forced fumbles in only 10 games, earning Class 5A All-State third team honors. And though Treasure Coast failed to make the playoffs, the Titans' seven victories set a single-season record for the school, which was in only its third year of existence.
Yet for all the superlatives, Luc could barely sniff a scholarship offer. And outside of Port St. Lucie, few knew about him. Treasure Coast head coach Bill Kelley and his staff set out to change that in January when they compiled a highlight reel for their gridiron star. Two days after they sent out the tape, the calls started coming in droves. A day later, the offers began to pile up.
Jeff Luc was a secret no more.
"I didn't know it was going to come this fast," says Luc of all the recruiting and media attention. "Matter of fact, I didn't see it coming at all."
Which is what you might say after being tackled by Luc.
If you're a college coach watching Luc's tape, all you need to do is check out the first couple clips to realize the kid is for real. During one play, Luc blitzes an opposing quarterback and drives him to the turf. The impact resembles a Mack Truck hitting a Smart car. The interest from big-time BCS programs has arrived just as fast and furious for the 6-foot-1, 245-pound senior and Under Armour All-American. At press time, Luc was rated the nation's No. 5 recruit in the ESPNU 150 and held more than 30 scholarship offers from the likes of Florida, USC, Florida State, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami and Stanford. USC coaches even made the trek from Los Angeles to Port St. Lucie to meet with Luc -- and the Trojans staff doesn't travel that far unless you're special.
Luc already looks the part of a college player. His arms resemble lead pipes, while his entire torso seems so strong you could break a brick over it. Despite his size, Luc is able to move effortlessly from sideline to sideline with his lateral quickness and overall speed (4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash). And then there are those punishing tackles, which Luc relishes.
"It feels like you want another one and another one and another one," he says.
Treasure Coast coaches and opponents watch in amazement each successive hit Luc delivers with both power and perfect form.
"It looks like things you'd see on Sunday," says Kelley.
"He hits them with a purpose in mind, and his purpose is to search and destroy," Fort Pierce Westwood coach Waides Ashmon II adds. "When you want to teach young kids how to tackle, just pop in a tape of Jeff Luc."
One of Luc's best tackles came on a play that didn't even count. During a preseason game against Space Coast last year, the Treasure Coast defense faced a goal-line stand against the Vipers. As soon as the ball was snapped, Luc blasted through the line and met the running back with such force he knocked the ball loose. He then scooped up the fumble and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, which was called back because of a penalty on the return.
Although it didn't officially register in the box score, it was clearly the highlight of the day.
"From beginning to end, that's as impressive a play as any I've seen in 20 years of coaching," says Kelley.
Luc's transformation off the field has been just as impressive. Growing up in Miami, he was in and out of trouble in elementary school, and his grades suffered. His parents decided it was time for a change of scenery and moved the family to Port St. Lucie when Luc was in the sixth grade.
Since his arrival at Treasure Coast, he's turned himself into both an elite recruit and a solid student. (He had a 3.45 GPA at press time.)
"In elementary school, school wasn't a big issue to me," Luc concedes. "I was young and didn't realize how it could help me in the future. My coaching staff changed me and taught me that football and school could take me a long way.
"This truly wouldn't be possible without my coaching staff and teammates. They've taught me everything I've known."
Luc's family has noticed the change.
"He's turned into a completely different person, physically and mentally," says his older brother, Alex.
But Luc doesn't want to stop here. His goal for his senior year is to guide Treasure Coast to its first-ever playoff berth and showcase other Treasure Coast players along the way.
"It's an opportunity to help my teammates," says Luc.
Individually, he began working toward his senior campaign back in the winter of his junior year. Ashmon was impressed -- and, as an opposing coach, probably a little scared -- when he saw Luc doing a training run through the neighborhood in February. And Luc can now bench press 355 pounds and squat more than 600 pounds.
"If you don't really work, you aren't going to have any progress," says Luc. "You're going to stay where you're at. For me, any chance I get at improving, I take it."
Now that the secret is out, Luc wants to prove the hype is justified.
Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE Magazine.