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HARD WORK PAYS OFF: Union/A-C Valley Senior Parlays Breakout Season at Linebacker Into College Football Opportunity at Lycoming

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Luke Wilson felt as though he was cheating himself.

Wilson was a solid linebacker during his junior year for the Union/A-C Valley football team, but he was struck with a lingering belief that he could be better.

Much better.

The Rimersburg native went all-in. No holding back. He was going to train harder. Lift more weights. Get himself into the best shape of his life and study the game to harness his instincts and football IQ.

(Pictured above, Union senior and middle linebacker for the Union/A-C Valley football team Luke Wilson, seated at center, signed his national letter of intent to play at Lycoming College. With him are, from left, Falcon Knights’ head football coach Dan Reed, girlfriend Brooklyn Edmonds, mother Amy Wilson, father Ryan Wilson, brother Cole Wilson, brother Parker Wilson, brother Peyton Wilson and assistant coach Matt Bish)

“I wanted to see what I could do if I tried my best,” Wilson said. “I wanted to see how good I could become.”

The result was a breakthrough senior campaign for the Falcon Knights at middle linebacker.

Wilson was a force. 

The 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker led all of District 9 with 132 tackles. He made 18 stops in a game twice and 17 in another. In nine of Union/A-C Valley’s 11 games, Wilson had nine or more tackles.

“My junior year, I was alright,” Wilson said. “But I worked so hard that summer before my senior year.”

The biggest change he made was his strength. He packed 15 pounds of muscle on his stocky frame. He became a black hole, pulling down any runner that fell into his powerful grasp.

“I never lifted consistently before. My upper body wasn’t that strong,” Wilson said. “I was faster, and I weighed more. It was almost a guaranteed tackle every time. I didn’t have to worry about missing tackles.”

His play also got Wilson noticed by a slew of football coaches in the area.

Wilson had no shortage of offers.

“I reached out to a couple of coaches and a couple of coached reached out to me,” he said. “I realized the ones who were reaching out to me really wanted me more than the ones I was reaching out to.”

One of the first schools that pursued Wilson was Lycoming College.

Steve Wiser, the associated head coach and co-defensive coordinator, spearheaded Wilson’s recruitment there.

Wiser is the brother of longtime Clarion High School football coach and current North Clarion athletic director Larry Wiser.

Wilson and Steve Wiser struck up an instant connection. He was one reason Wilson opted to sign to play at Lycoming.

“He just kind of made me feel like family there,” Wilson said. “He made me feel like I just need to go.”

Union/A-C Valley football coach Dan Reed said Lycoming is the perfect place for Wilson to continue his academic and football career.

“It’s not always easy for kids who come from small schools to go to college and play. It’s a matter of how much you want it and how bad you want it to stick it out because it’s not always easy.”

“Steve Wiser has been the defensive coordinator out there for like 100 years. He does a great job with them. When I coached at Keystone, we took teams out there for a camp every year. It’s really a nice place and a nice campus. It’s a nice fit for him.”

Reed said he was also impressed with how hard Wilson worked in the offseason.

It was apparent in his play on the field last fall.

“He really improved,” Reed said. “He just took over that spot in the middle. He made it hard for other teams to run the ball against us. I think his combination of hard work, understanding of the game and just being really a student of the game, went a long way. It definitely paid off for him.”

Wilson said he’s going to keep working.

He joined the track and field team this spring, where he takes part mainly in the shot and discus and also runs some sprints.

Wilson’s aim is to continue to get stronger and faster.

“I definitely need to work on getting in better shape before my next season because I found myself getting tired,” Wilson said. “I played offense and I kicked off and played on kick return sometimes on special teams. That was a lot.

“I want to get stronger. I want to get a little bit quicker,” he added. “I started running track. I literally just started (April 16). There’s a difference between football and track speed for sure. I could tell the plyometrics helped me because I had a decent time and I didn’t even train in the 100.”

In Wilson’s first meet, he ran a time of 12 seconds.

“But I slowed down at the end, the last 10 meters,” Wilson said “That’s not bad for slowing down and since it was my first time.”

Wilson has football teammate, running back Logan Skibinski, pushing him.

Skibinski recently broke the school record in the 100 with a time of 11.0.

“He’s insane. He starts off like everyone else, but that last 50 meters he just shoots off,” Wilson said of Skibinski. “First time was on a rainy track and he just destroyed me.”

Wilson has been playing football since he was very young. But the sport wasn’t immediately his passion.

“Originally, when I started playing football, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it,” he said. “All the way until junior high, I wasn’t sure. Then I really started liking it. I’ve always liked football itself. I just felt like I wasn’t good enough.”

He doesn’t have to worry about being good enough now.

“I am proud because I worked so hard for it,” Wilson said. “That hard work finally paid off in the end.”