At 6-foot-6, 306 pounds, Luke Joeckel definitely was the biggest guy in the room. But while speaking to 17 foster children, the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle argued he wasn’t the toughest guy there.
“Y’all are the toughest guys I know,” Joeckel said. “I appreciate you fighting as hard as you do, and I want you to know that I look up to you.”
Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, donated $25,000 to help area foster children. Rebekah Poling, the regional development director for Foster in Texas (FIT), a nonprofit program of Lutheran Social Services (LSS), said Joeckel’s donation helps in many ways. Among other things, it will go toward administrative expenses associated with training foster families as well as a birthday fund and Christmas gifts for foster children.
FIT serves 200 kids and has 80 families in North Texas.
“If you steward these resources really well, it’s incredible what impact they have,” Poling said.
Joeckel shared pizza, stories, advice, autographed pictures and T-shirts with two large families at Mama’s Pizza on Tuesday evening. Joeckel’s grandfather, Rev. Dave Joeckel, spent 28 years at Grace Lutheran Church in Arlington. After his retirement in 1998, Dave began working with LSS.
Luke remembers joining his grandparents and his siblings in delivering Christmas gifts to foster children.
“So we were especially thrilled when he decided he wanted to contribute to them,” Judy Joeckel, Luke’s grandmother, said.
Joeckel, an Arlington High product, signed a four-year, $21.2 million contract with a $13.8 million signing bonus after the Jaguars selected him out of Texas A&M. Joeckel already donated $50,000 to establish a scholarship fund at Jacksonville (Texas) High School in memory of former A&M teammate Joey Villavisencio.
“I was given so much by my family growing up,” Joeckel said. “One thing my grandpa and also my dad told me all the time was: For those who are given much, much is expected. So learning that and having that instilled in me, when you have the opportunity to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s more important than any award or accolade I could receive in some sport.”
Joeckel, 22, continues his rehab from a broken right ankle. He was injured Oct. 6 against St. Louis when Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford rolled up Joeckel’s leg.
Joeckel had surgery Oct. 23 and spent eight weeks with non-weight bearing restrictions. Joeckel got out of the boot three weeks ago and said he is ahead of schedule in his rehab.
Joeckel’s last injury came his sophomore season in high school when he broke his left ankle. Joeckel started all 39 games at left tackle in his career for the Aggies.
“It wasn’t a good year overall, for sure,” he said. “You never want to be injured. You never want to go through that. That’s something I’m not used to. It’s something that happens in football all the time, but it’s tough. I’ve just got to get better from it, get hungrier and be back bigger, faster and stronger next year.”
Joeckel spent only 15 plays at left tackle, his natural position, having started the season at right tackle. The Jaguars traded veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe to Baltimore only five days before Joeckel was lost for the season.
“It was great to see they have the confidence in me to move over and protect the blindside of the quarterback,” Joeckel said. “That was really special and meant a lot.”