Keller’s Alec Luikens has played all along the offensive line since his sophomore year, but the senior will shift back to center for the coming season.
With over 45 seniors having graduated from last year’s Keller football team, Luikens’ importance as the anchor of the young offensive line is even greater.
He’s the third Luikens brother to play at Keller and he said having to jump into a starting role as a sophomore was a challenge.
That previous experience has created one of Keller’s quiet leaders, said head coach Carl Stralow.
“He’ll lead new faces into the season. He’s a silent leader and doesn’t say much but he will be a key to our success,” Stralow said. “He’s a good football player but he’s a better kid.”
Luikens said he, too, will have to adjust to the loss of such a large group of seniors from last year and that one about a dozen returners to the roster this year have prior varsity playing time.
Since spring workouts, Luikens said he’s been focused on improving his strength and quickness. The summer months, too, have helped him boost his 6-3 frame up to 270 pounds while flipping tires, improving his footwork and running other drills.
“I’ve been working on getting stronger and getting faster,” Luikens said, who has now fully rehabbed a shoulder injury from last year. “I’m quicker off the mark and my speed has helped me get to the outside blocks.”
His technique had improved, too, thanks in part to offensive line coach Colby Meek. That additional ability will be advantageous as Keller plugs in a new running back to replace Tyler Tutt.
The return of a familiar face, quarterback Dillon Smith, will give more of a comfort level to the offense.
Junior Liam Ardigo could be the new face at RB, and Luikens referred to him as “a beast who’s very fast and strong for his size.”
When Smith drops back to pass, though, Luikens is just as happy to block.
“I like pass plays, I’ll be honest,” Luikens said, joking that his assignment normally doesn’t require as much running.
“It is very satisfying to feel the defensive linemen grasp your jersey and then as you pull away, there goes the back off my butt with no one ahead of them,” he said of the challenge in run blocking.
This year back at center, Luikens welcomes the opportunity and challenge to be involved in every play and lead those on both sides of him.
“Guard was easy for me because I always had someone beside me. At center, I have to snap the ball and then I’m already off-balance,” he said.
In addition to his technique, the Indians will need to look to Luikens for his leadership.
He said those around him haven’t had the knowledge of what it’s like to go up against a Denton Guyer or Fossil Ridge defense in the fourth quarter.
“I have to become a second coach on the field,” Luikens said.
But for this quiet giant, the big thrill is the full package of the football experience.
“I love the atmosphere. The band and the crowd,” Luikens said. “It’s what makes it all worthwhile. All the pep rallies…” he said, recalling all the pageantry that goes with high school football.
Before the band strikes up the school song, though, Luikens and his teammates are preparing for the season that kicks off on Aug. 26 at Abilene Cooper.
“We want to have a great senior season. We want to finish with a bang and with the district we’re in, we can do that. It’s entirely attainable. We’re hungry and ready to play,” he said.