Seven years and a trip through the world of rock and roll later, Kelan Luker is back on the college football gridiron.
Yes, that Kelan Luker.
Luker was a hometown hero in Stephenville in 1998 when he led the Yellow Jackets to their third of four Class 4A football titles in the 90s.
Now, he’s back in Stephenville as a member of another successful football program - this time wearing purple and white.
Luker has committed to returning to the collegiate game as a junior at Tarleton State University.
“I’m hoping to get enrolled to start in June,” Luker said. “That way I can start learning and catching up. I don’t want to fall any further behind.”
Luker’s journey to Tarleton has been a windy one filled with both football and music.
He was named the 1998 Class 4A Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press after leading the Stephenville offense to a national record 8.664 total yards. He set 4A records by passing for 4,700 yards and 49 touchdowns in a season. Both marks have since been eclipsed by current Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell at Ennis.
Two years after Luker’s prep career was complete, he was named Texas High School Quarterback of the Decade.
From Stephenville, Luker went to SMU in Dallas, where he started three games under center for the Mustangs as a sophomore in 2001.
That’s when music got in the way.
Luker had purchased a bass guitar before leaving Stephenville for Dallas, and what started as a way to pass time soon became a passion.
Luker and the band Submersed played at local clubs around the Dallas area in 2001, while he was also playing for the Mustangs.
Early in 2002, he was forced to choose between his two favorite activities.
The band, which was managed by his older brother, Seth, and included fellow Stephenville natives Donald Carpenter and TJ Davis, was signed by Wind-up Records. The deal would eventually land the group on tour with Creed and Alter Bridge.
With the future of his collegiate career on the gridiron uncertain, Luker chose music.
“Music has been great to me,” says Luker. “It gave me a chance to exprience a world without football, and I have great memories of it.”
Submersed came out with two albums, “In Due Time” in 2005 and Immortal Verses” last year.
But with rock and roll suffering through a down time, Luker became restless early this year.
“We were sitting around getting frustrated,” Luker said. “That’s when I decided I had more to do with my life.”
Luker certainly had a little prodding to help with his decision.
“My dad actually asked me if I had thought about playing football again,” said Luker. “I said, ‘Sure, everyday.’”
Playing football again soon became more than just a conversation on the phone. Knowing where to look for advice, Luker turned to past coaches.
“I talked to everyone,” he said. “I talked to Coach (Mike) Copeland the first day I got back here, and I talked to Coach (Joseph) Gillespie, Coach Briles, everybody. I asked them what they thought and if they could do it over again, what they would do differently.”
Finally, Luker visited with Tarleton Head Football Coach Sam McElroy, who he says welcomed him with open arms.
“Kelan’s going to come out and compete with us, and hopefully he can help us out,” said McElroy. “The main thing is he wants to finish his degree, and that’s our top priority is to see him do that. He hopes to get into coaching, so he thought getting back on the field would be a good move in that direction.”
It may have been more than six years since Luker has played competitive football, but McElroy is well aware of the newest Texan’s reputation in Stephenville.
“He’s a hometown hero having won a state championship here,” McElroy said.
Luker’s pursuit of a coaching career comes as no surprise.
“My dad’s been a coach for 30 years and my uncle’s been a coach for 30 years,” he says.
Kelan’s father, Alan Luker, is currently coaching on Robbie Tindol’s staff that has resurrected the program at Class 2A Early. Tindol and Luker previously coached together as assistants at Stephenville.
Luker’s parents, Alan and wife, Diane, currently reside in Gustine.
Luker joins a Tarleton backfield that returns starting signal caller Scott Grantham. As a redshirt freshman transfer, Grantham, who is from El Paso and came to Tarleton from New Mexico State, was 60.4-percent passing for 2,882 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2007.
“I haven’t had a chance to meet Scott yet,” Luker said. “I hear he is an upstanding guy. I look forward to meeting him and learning from him.”
Luker only hopes the 2008 Texans can achieve the level of chemistry he says he misses most from the magical 1998 season at Stephenville.
“That was a very special year,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to be a part of anything like that since then. The chemistry was just perfect.”
For Luker, just the chemistry of being back home has been special so far.
“I’ve been back about a week and it’s just been great,” he said of returning home from Ocala, Fla.
“Every door I’ve asked to be open has opened up for me,” he continued. “It’s been a blessing.
“This is home. It feels like I never left. I’m a little bit older but the football and the community doesn’t seem like it’s changed.”