Perserverance paying off at Lake

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Running back learns early that his father knows best
By George M. Thomas

Akron Beacon Journal


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Lake High School's Jimmy Luther running back carries the ball during a drill at football practice in Uniontown, Ohio. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal)

Jim Luther Jr., the talented running back and strong safety for the Lake Blue Streaks, learned at a young age that sometimes parents might actually know what they are talking about.

When he began playing youth football at the age of 7, Luther wasn't exactly thrilled that he was out sweating in gear on the football field and his friends were out riding their bikes.

He wanted to quit.

But his father, Jim Luther Sr., told him he had to finish what he started and he didn't have to play again after that.

''It was one of the few times I knew what I was doing [as a parent],'' Jim Luther Sr. said.

Indeed.

Jim Luther Jr. said that the game quickly grew on him.

''I didn't understand it then because I was so young, but just the camaraderie . . . just being around your buddies all the time, it's like going to battle,'' he said.

Eleven years later, Jim Luther Jr. is regarded as one of the better football players in the area as he works double time for the Blue Streaks as one of the team's main offensive threats and a defensive stopper in the secondary. He had 44 tackles last season. 

He joins an exclusive list of former Lake players who have made an impact, including Jameson Konz, recently waived by the Seattle Seahawks.

''He's certainly one of the better athletes, running backs that we've had,'' Lake coach Jeff Durbin said. ''That puts him in good company. We think he could potentially be as good on the other side of the ball at strong safety.''

Durbin can recite a list of players who lived up to their potential on the field, but he said there are far more that never do. Those who fulfill their potential get the nibbles from colleges and a shot at a free education.

''Part of it is God-given talent. He's got talent. He's strong. He's fast. Part of it is work habits,'' Durbin said. ''Jimmy loves the game. He loves practice. He works hard every day at it, so I think it's the combination of those things.''

That fact shows in his numbers from last season. Luther gained 1,320 yards and scored 20 touchdowns during the Blue Streaks' 5-5 season. He is a little over 1,100 yards away from setting the school's career rushing record.

That translated into a slew of postseason awards for Luther. Among them: team Most Valuable Player, WHBC All-County, first-team all Federal League and third team all-Ohio.

He's not limited to prowess on the football field, either. Although some recruiting sites list him as running a 4.7 40-yard dash, he said that it's more like a 4.4. That has allowed him to compete successfully in track. He was also chosen the track team's MVP and was second-team all-Federal League in that sport.

It will be football, though, that will probably get him a free ride at a college. So far, Mid-American Conference teams have shown the most interest in him as a player. The University of Toledo, Ball State University and the University of Akron have contacted him, he said.

He has also heard from Malone University and the University of Mount Union.

Like many prep football players who grow up listening to their parents wax nostalgic about the likes of Rex Kern and Archie Griffin and are old enough to remember the BCS National Championship win over the Miami Hurricanes, he loves the Ohio State University Buckeyes.

But there's a streak of pragmatism that runs through every statement he makes and he knows that isn't in the cards for him.

''There are a lot of good schools out there. My dream school would be somewhere I could go and get a degree, somewhere that's not too far away from home, but is far enough away,'' he said.

On some recruiting sites, he's listed as an ''athlete'' for football, meaning he's willing to be flexible in which position he plays. With his 6-foot-1 frame and his speed, some of the schools previously mentioned might find him an asset.

''I'm really looking for someplace where I can go run the ball or play strong safety. But if I have to do something else, that's fine,'' he said. ''I'm playing college ball and getting school paid for, so that's good.''

Looking for an idea of which school is tempting him most?

''I want to major in graphic design and Ball State has a real good graphic design program. I need somewhere where I can get an education in something I want to do, something I want to major in,'' he said.

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