R.J. Luke has fond memories of his days at Waubonsie Valley

  • Former Waubonsie Valley High School wide receiver R.J. Luke is now living and coaching high school football in Suwanee, Ga.

    Former Waubonsie Valley High School wide receiver R.J. Luke is now living and coaching high school football in Suwanee, Ga. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 4/2/2020 11:32 AM

R.J. Luke is doing pretty much what he wants to in his career, like he did on the football field at Waubonsie Valley High School.

Playing for his father, retired coach B.J. Luke, Robert John Luke operated in beast mode years before that became a catch phrase. The two-way star graduated in 1998 with state records for pass receptions, reception yardage and consecutive games with a catch, 40 between 1994-97.

 

Among the nation's most sought-after tight ends and also a bruising defensive end, as a senior the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder earned Upstate Eight Conference most valuable player and defensive player of the year honors, his fourth straight all-conference selection.

Twice named all-state, Luke was the 1997 Gatorade player of the year in Illinois and a USA Today first-team All-American. In 1995 as a sophomore he was named the UEC offensive MVP, his Waubonsie Valley Hall of Fame capsule notes.

He went to Penn State as an H-back, or combination tight end-fullback. After his redshirt junior year Luke transferred to Western Illinois where at tight end in 2002 he made Football Gazette first-team All-American. His 725 yards receiving that fall still lead Leathernecks tight ends and his 40 receptions rank behind only J.R. Niklos, now Neuqua Valley's offensive coordinator.

Also a track sprinter and an all-conference basketball player -- in Waubonsie's Top 10 in scoring and rebounding -- Luke signed with the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks but didn't see action.

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He subsequently played in the Arena Football League, helped his father coach football at Danville after B.J. Luke returned to his hometown, even served as Springfield High School's head coach from 2012-14.

Married to a woman, Brittany, he met while playing for the Austin Wranglers Arena team, Luke now lives in Suwanee, Georgia, about 33 miles northeast of Atlanta. He's got two children, 6-year-old Bo and 3-year-old Brooklyn.

"She's all athlete," R.J. said of his daughter.

Now 40, he warmly remembers his high school years.

"Regardless of sport, my favorite memory of Waubonsie was just how tight-knit everybody was," Luke said. "When I went there everybody grew up there, they knew each other. There was a real family feel to it."

There's a family feel in Georgia, too. Luke's parents, B.J. and Holly, live in nearby Sugar Hill, "like Naperville is to Aurora," B.J. Luke said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

R.J.'s sister, Ashley, also lives in Sugar Hill with her husband, Waubonsie Valley graduate Denny Clanton. Ashley coached Mother McAuley's girls basketball team to second place in Class 4A in 2019 before moving south and taking the girls post at Norcross High School. Two other sisters remain in Illinois.

Luke is in his sixth season as a varsity defensive line coach and strength coach at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee. He helped the Bulldogs to a 14-1 record and a Class 7A state title in 2017.

Outside of coaching he's a sports performance trainer, contracting with fitness facilities to train primarily high school and college athletes.

Initially Luke wanted to apply his kinesiology studies as a college strength trainer, but he's happy where he's at.

"I love what I'm doing right now," he said. "What I'm doing right now, I can see doing for the rest of my life."

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