Luke Laufenberg is full of confidence. The tight end from Liberty Christian School (Argyle, Texas) describes himself as “bigger than a corner if you want to put (him) outside and faster than a linebacker if you want to put (him) inside.” Unfortunately, a sports hernia injury put him on the sideline, limiting his chance to build an archive of game film or attend camps to help gain exposure.
Laufenberg continued working, went through physical therapy, surgery, and spent “tons of time” analyzing game film during the on-field setbacks. He announced Monday afternoon via Twitter that dreams had turned into reality and would be playing football at Texas A&M.
— Luke Laufenberg (@LukeLaufenberg) May 16, 2016
His decision ultimately came down to UCLA, LSU and Texas A&M, with the Aggies winning out. “There were a few FCS schools and a few other DI’s that showed interest,” Laufenberg told SEC Country, “but I never even considered them.” He previously tested the waters of the Southeastern Conference with an official visit to Arkansas, but “didn’t love it there.” That same day, he received his first contact from the Aggies.
“Texas A&M discovered me and got in contact with me,” Laufenberg said. “I was set on them because it’s familiar. I had a buddy (J.J. Gustafson) who played offensive line there and I could talk to him about it. I went down to two spring practices and had an unofficial visit and liked all the facilities. It’s close to home so I’m close to family and friends. I like that aspect of it.”
Later in the recruiting process, UCLA and LSU got in the mix, but Laufenberg’s interest in remaining close to home was too large for the Bruins or Tigers to sway.
“He’s an awesome tight end,” said Liberty Christian quarterback Nick Starkel, who graduates with Laufenberg on May 27. “He had no offers because he didn’t get to play as much this year. His injury kept him sidelined but he came back and had really good film. He got offered preferred walk-ons from all around the country. All the coaches are saying if you come here for one year you can get a scholarship. Today, he chose A&M. That’s pretty awesome.”
Laufenberg’s injury resulted from overuse in the August going into his junior season.
“We never really found it,” Laufenberg said. “I always just tried to play through it, I didn’t think it was anything. I went to physical therapy, and obviously you can’t heal a sports hernia through physical therapy. Real late they said, if this doesn’t go away it has to be a sports hernia. Eventually we operated on it but unfortunately I was about six months late on that, so I killed a bunch of time basically doing nothing.”
His injury fully healed about a year ago. He practiced in the summer and worked on routes with his father. He says “he got really well prepared” during the time he was unable to play. After missing the first four games of the season, Laufenberg was cleared to return against Bishop Lynch, the Warriors’ second district opponent of the season.
When Laufenberg stepped back on the field for the first time, he was “not scared, but more of a nervous feeling because it was the first varsity game I had really played in. Right up until I caught my first pass that game I was pretty jittery. Once the game got going and I caught a pass or two it started feeling relatively normal. I ended that game with about seven catches for 70 yards. After that game I was like, ‘Yeah I can do this, it’s not that tough.’”
Luke gives credit to his parents, Joan and former NFL quarterback Brandon ‘Babe’ Laufenberg, for “everything they’ve done a lot for me on and off the field. My brother (Joe Willie, named after Joe Namath and currently a student assistant at the University of Colorado) has pushed me on and off the field. Then I have my friends, it’s about an eight-person group message and they are always in touch with me and keeping up with everything I do. One of us, Cole Sutherland, is coming up to A&M so I’d like to give a special shout out to him. He’s a big Ags fan.”
Of course, Starkel will be arriving alongside Laufenberg when the two report to College Station in a few weeks. Coming along with the duo is a strong bond both on and off the field. Laufenberg calls his relationship with Starkel absolutely phenomenal. “Every day we are both working out in the mornings before school and then after school we are throwing on the field. When we are done with that we usually meet up and eat and do homework together. We are literally together 14 hours of the day. We are always with each other and I think it translates well onto the field.”
“He knows where I like the football,” Laufenberg said. “I’m a little bit taller and don’t bend as well so he likes to throw it up high so I can jump a little bit. Little things like that we found out through things you don’t do in practice, just more one-on-one work really helped us this year. Obviously being together so much, you build a strong relationship.”