Luigs Center of Attention

FAYETTEVILLE — Jonathan Luigs wanted to spend more time with his mother and more afternoons fishing and hunting with his father.

He wasn't ready to give up the college lifestyle, either. The idea of being on his own, working and paying taxes didn't sound too appealing.

As it turned out, Luigs' decision to return to Arkansas for his senior season instead of entering this month's NFL Draft was an easy one to make.

"The (draft) projections played a role, but at the same time (college) was the lifestyle I wanted to live," Luigs said. "Just have one more year with Mom and Dad."

Arkansas' new coaches are glad the Little Rock native decided to come back for one more season.

Luigs won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center last season, and his knack for being a fast learner and good communicator has already come in handy over the first three days of spring practice.

First-year Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and his assistants have spent the past few months revamping the offense from a run-first style to one that calls for more passing and different formations.

That also means new blocking schemes. And as Arkansas' center, it's up to Luigs to tell the other offensive linemen where to go.

"I think the thing that helps the most is that Jonathan is a good football player and he's a smart football player and he cares about this football team," Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Summers said. "So when you have those three combinations, then the transition for what we're trying to do is easy because he understands what I want and communicates that to the other guys."

Luigs said he hopes to have an even bigger role on the Razorbacks this upcoming season, one that will put him more front and center than usual.

Arkansas has a shortage of team leaders, and with only a few proven players coming back, Luigs said he wants to be one of the seniors who can be counted on to keep other guys on-track.

"I think leadership is real important. I think the best leadership we had was when we went 10-4 and went to the SEC Championship Game (in 2006)," Luigs said. "That's not a knock on the seniors last year or anything, but I don't think we had the same caliber leadership as we had the year before.

"And leadership shows in the win column. The better the leadership, the better off your team is going to be."

Luigs isn't Arkansas' loudest player. He's a 6-foot-4, 314-pound giant who speaks softly, smiles often and still has a baby face. But he said he wants to be a quiet leader like former Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh.

"He leads by example. He leads by how hard he plays, how hard he works," Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "And usually those are the best leaders anyway."

Luigs had options after winning the Rimington Trophy last December. He got feedback from the NFL on where he was projected to be drafted if he decided to leave Arkansas early. But the projections weren't too promising.

Luigs didn't want to say where he was projected to be taken, but it's believed he was rated as a possible fifth- or sixth-rounder.

"Centers aren't a very draftable position. You see the tackles and the guards go first," Luigs said. "So really it's kind of unheard of for a center to leave early. I think maybe one person has done it."

While Luigs was weighing his options, Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick said he never made a sales pitch to Luigs, hoping to talk him into being the quarterback's center for one more year.

"We kind of joked around, but basically I knew it was his decision. He was going to do what he wanted to do," Dick said. "We kind of just had to leave it like that, and nobody was going to push him one way or another."

Of course, Dick liked Luigs' final decision.


Jonathan Luigs

Age: 21

Size: 6-foot-4, 314 pounds

Position: Center

Hometown: Little Rock

Notable: Luigs has started 27 consecutive games at center for Arkansas, and he has missed only one game in three seasons because of an injury in 2005. Luigs won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center last season, leading an offensive line that gave up only 13 sacks. He was also named to several postseason All-American teams. The Little Rock native started seven games at offensive guard in 2005 before moving over to center.

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