Coug QB Luke Falk took hard way to WSU

COUGAR WALK-ON quarterback Luke Falk does things the hard way. Not on purpose mind you, but the easy path always seems to escape him. Life seems to work out better that way in the end, though.

Growing up, playing football was fun for Falk. As a sophomore at Logan High in Utah, Falk lit up the scoreboard despite splitting time with an upperclassman. Already 6-4 and with a strong arm, Falk caught a lot of attention, in and out of his home state. An opportunity came up to transfer to Oaks Christian High in Los Angeles, home to one of the more top prep football programs in California.

Oaks is no ordinary high school. Colloquially referred to as 'Hollywood High,' Oaks is a place where teammates have last names like Gretzky, Matthews, and Montana. On any given night you could spot the likes of Will Smith or Tom Cruise sitting in the grandstands.

When Falk arrived, Oaks had won six straight Southern Section titles and being the starting quarterback for the Lions all but guaranteed a scholarship to a major college football program. Falk won the starting quarterback job and an offer from Florida State soon followed.

But the decision to leave Logan had come at a heavy price. The family had to uproot, his father had to find a new job, and the whole group had to endure culture shock in LA. After a few months, one thing was clear: they had been happier in Logan.

After just three games at Oaks, Falk transferred back to Logan. But this decision to go home came at heavy price too.

FALK WAS FORCED to sit out an entire season because of transfer rules. Florida State stopped calling. Relationships with his old friends and teammates had to be rebuilt. Falk fell completely off the recruiting radar.

Determined to make up for lost time, Falk dove hard into his senior season and broke many of Utah's state passing records in the process. In the world of recruiting, the damage had been done though. Schools get their QB early, as juniors. Plenty of schools showed interest in Falk, but few still had room -- QB isn't like the other positions, teams rarely take more than one a class.

Idaho and Wyoming offered him scholarships, and Cornell offered an equivalent financial aid package. After some soul searching, Falk made what would have been an easy choice for anybody else and decided to commit to Cornell. An Ivy League education is hardly a consolation prize, but playing football at Cornell also closes the door on any dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl or the NFL.

Then a phone call from Mike Leach changed everything.

"It was the offense I'd always dreamed of playing in," Falk says.

A HIGH-POWERED offense with a decision-making QB at the center of it, WSU was the perfect mix of coach and system, says Falk. But Leach wasn't offering Falk a scholarship, only an opportunity. Falk could walk on and try work his way into the job. The best player plays, said Leach.

It was a bold decision but mom and dad were both supportive and understanding.

"I think she thought I was a little crazy." Falk says of his mom when he told her he was decommitting from Cornell for a shot at destiny with Mike Leach.

It takes a special kind of resolve to turn down a full ride, and to an Ivy League school, for the chance to chase your football dreams. But Falk has no regrets about the chances he's taken before, even the ones that didn't pan out. The last thing he says he wants is to spend the next 50 years of his life wondering what might have been.

WHEN FALK ARRIVED on the WSU campus last summer, most of the coaches and players didn't even know who he was. He had to work extra hard to get attention. The life a student athlete is already hard, but being a walk on is even harder.

"There's no meals, no housing, no stipend, you have to buy all your own food," says Falk, "The rest of team will wave sarcastically at John Thompson and I eating our cafeteria food when they walk past on their way to their dining room."

Falk loves his teammates, though, "They are such a great group of guys. Tyler (Bruggman) is awesome, we get along real well," Falk says of his top competitor for the backup quarterback job.

It would be difficult for others to juggle the intense competition and still be a good teammate, but not for Falk, "You just focus on the things you can control, and make yourself the best player you can be, that's the best way to help the team get better."

And Falk says the Cougs have gone better.

"The bowl game really left a bitter taste in our mouths, we are shooting for nine wins or more this season," he says, "Everybody is working really hard and the team looks really strong."

After going 20-for-31 in the Crimson and Gray game for 213 yards and a touchdown, Falk is working to position himself for this year and beyond, when the Cougs will need to replace Halliday in 2015. But he doesn't claim any personal goals.

"I just want to play football," says Falk.

Indeed, Falk is taking life one snap at a time. He's looking forward to the Utah game in Salt Lake City this season -- Falk still has a lot of fans back in his home state. Over his first year at WSU, the second-year freshman has gained quite a few fans in his adopted state as well.

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