It was a banquet of honor complete with a uniformed band, a catered dinner, dressed up dignitaries and praise aplenty for the man of the hour.But Luke Joeckel, understandably, couldn’t make his own party.Between 200 and 300 students and supporters of the Arlington High football program gathered at Shady Valley Golf Club on Thursday evening to watch as the Colts standout turned Texas A&M star took the next step in what has been a stellar athletic career. The crowd cheered and clapped when the giant-screen TV showed the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Joeckel with the second overall pick of this year’s NFL draft in New York.Although there was some disappointment that he wasn’t taken No. 1 by the Kansas City Chiefs, as many mock drafts had predicted, nobody had to wait long for him to become the highest-drafted player in the city’s history.“There are a lot of good athletes that come out of Arlington every year who are Division I signees,” Joeckel had said Wednesday. “Being the highest pick out of all those guys would be a huge honor.”The Joeckels have deep roots in Arlington, with both sets of Luke’s grandparents still residing there. Dave Joeckel, Luke’s father, was an offensive lineman at Arlington High and Texas Tech. He went to training camp with the Denver Broncos in 1983, John Elway’s rookie season.“We like the town. We love the schools,” Dave Joeckel said. “We’re huge Arlington fans, and we’re glad Luke is bringing whatever attention he is to the city.”Mark Clayton, a receiver at Sam Houston High School and Oklahoma, had been the highest-drafted player from Arlington until Thursday. He went 22nd overall to the Baltimore Ravens in 2005. Guy Morriss arguably was the city’s best-ever NFL player. A tight end at Sam Houston High School, he was a second-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1973 out of TCU and started 173 games in his 15-year career.Only 16 players from Arlington are known to have made NFL rosters, including four last season — Lamar’s Fred Jackson, Seguin’s Jamell Fleming, Grace Prep’s Justin Forsett and Bowie’s Ty Nsekhe.Joeckel’s success comes as no surprise to Colts coach Scott Peach, who said he immediately signed off on the idea to retire Joeckel’s jersey number, 72, this offseason. Peach said that Joeckel was the hardest worker on the team and that current players still see him as an example of how to play the game.“I mentioned his senior year in high school that, if he stayed healthy, I believed he would be a top-10 pick,” said Peach, whose father, Eddy, was a longtime coach at Lamar. “The reason I believed that was because he was the best lineman ever to walk through the city of Arlington.“The second thing is his parents did a great job with him. He has a great head on his shoulders. Nothing in his character was going to hold him back.“The third thing is he was a phenomenal left tackle, and I believed that is where he was going to stay. That’s where the big money is in the NFL.“I had never had an NFL kid before, but I did believe he is exactly what one looks like.”Joeckel becomes only the third player from Arlington High School in the NFL, joining kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh and defender Steve Jackson.Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos and Trustees Bowie Hogg — who helped organize the draft-watching party — Jamie Sullins and John Hibbs were among the school district officials in attendance.“It’s a special day for our district,” Cavazos said. “It’s a demonstration that having a strong work ethic pays off.”If Joeckel was the least bit disappointed in not being the No. 1 pick, true to his nature, he didn’t show it.“It’s the happiest moment in my life,” he said. More photos: bit.ly/13GRB59 Staff writer Charean Williams contributed to this report.
Patrick M. Walker, 682-232-4674 Twitter: @patrickmwalker1