Cedar Falls – is it real?
To Luke Loecher, the message that popped up from his mobile screen seemed more likely a practical joke from his friends than anything else.
He replied skeptically.
“is this real?” Luscher replied.
The idea floated through his mind as Loescher reflected back in his summer. After graduating from Cedar Falls High School in the spring of 2017, Loecher chose to stay close to home and make the hour-long move south to play baseball for Kirkwood Community College.
At 6-foot-5, 200-pound with an arsenal of pitches, Loecher stood as the leading presence on the hill. As a junior in 2016, Loecher made 49.2 runs for the Tigers, hitting 40 hitters and setting the team’s lowest time with a mark of 1.55.
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But an elbow injury derailed him in his first season and limited him to just 13.2 rounds.
Once in Kirkwood, the injury continued to affect his playing.
“It was a full course,” Loescher said. “At first I thought I tore something up. I got an MRI at the time and nothing was wrong, but there was a lot of annoyance. I would start working all the way up until ‘I could probably get off the stage again.’ Then, it would happen. Something “.
After an exit interview with his coaches at Cedar Rapids, Loecher knew baseball wouldn’t work for him.
While he excelled at getting diamonds at Cedar Falls, Loecher also averaged 35.9 yards per kick as a primary punter on the Tigers football team for two seasons. Despite receiving honors from All-Metro as a gambler after the 2016 season, baseball has always remained his focus.
“I’ve always thought baseball would be my sport,” Loescher said. “I thought it was my best sport. I didn’t even think about kicking in college.”
However, with baseball out of the table, Loescher attempted to hit the ball again.
“I came home and started kicking again in our backyard,” Loescher said. “My dad would watch, and he said, ‘Maybe, you shouldn’t give up kicks if baseball isn’t going to work out. “
Encouraging words from his father, Ron, prompted Luscher to continue working.
During the summer of 2018, Loescher worked in construction, practicing kicking in the backyard or in the field next to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls.
His mother, Lisa, also kept him motivated.
“I was going home, I don’t want to go gambling,” Loescher said. “My mom was saying ‘If you want to do this, we have to go out and you really have to commit. “So, I’d like to run. My mom would throw me balls – mimicking the shot – and then we would walk to the other side and ride again.”
He started measuring his passes and thought he was good enough to “at least get a shot somewhere”. Then he took a private lesson with Jimmy Cole, director of Kohl’s Professional Camp in Ankeny.
“I was very rusty, but Jimmy Cole said I had a high ceiling and he saw a lot of potential,” Loescher said. “I thought it was crazy. That first day, he said in the future he looked at me like a DI scholarship guy. … When he said what he saw in me, I really knew I had to keep working on it.”
Therefore, Loescher kept his nose on the grindstone. If he had to go the junior college route, he would.
“I knew football was something I had to strive for,” Loescher said.
Then, in August, his hard work paid off.
“I just got a text,” Loescher said. “He never said what school he was a part of or what his name was.”
The unnamed coach asked Loecher if he still needed a place to play in the fall of 2018. After some backtracking, Loecher received the text that sparked his skeptical response.
“This is Oregon.”
Beavers special coordinator Jake Cookus sat on the other end of the conversation in need of a second-series gambler following the departure of the previous backup.
“[Jamie Kohl]This kid, Luke, was looking for a show, said Cocos. We got his name out late. He said he was a very talented boy with a huge positive side.
Kohl’s recommendation was enough for Cookus to offer Loecher a place to walk with the Beavers.
“I saw a bit of the movie, but a lot of times you have to go off on one of your limbs,” Cocos said. “He’s a big, tall, tall, long kid. When he hits her, she’ll go in ways. I thought there was definitely some big upside in his coming to Oregon. So, [I] Take a chance on him.”
Loecher experienced a mixture of emotions, from the excitement of getting a shot in the first section to the fear of moving 2,000 miles from home to Corvallis.
Despite “everything moving too fast,” he arrived in Oregon in the middle of fall camp and began training as a Power 5 member.
“It was shocking in my first year or two, being on the sidelines and looking across the field and seeing — this is USC. Looking at the ground and seeing the Pac-12 logo,” Loescher said. His younger brother, Cael, started playing in northern Iowa, Which gave the family two of my first Division gamblers.” “I saw USC on TV, but actually, it was amazing.”
He got his first chance to chase in Oregon in 2018 when he faced the Arizona Beavers at home. With the score tied 7-7, just over 12 minutes to play in the second quarter, Loescher ran onto the field.
“I passed out kind of,” Loescher said. “I was really nervous. …I passed the kidnapper in my hands and held it to my chest. My drop — you don’t want any spin in the ball — the ball remains stationary. My drop was spinning all over. Really lucky.”
He does give some credit to the “gentle breeze” in his back, but Locher’s first bet sailed 52 yards–his season is long–and off-limits at Arizona 20.
He played sparingly for the next two seasons before taking over the primary in 2021.
With 47.1 yards per kick on 31 shoes during his junior season for the red jersey in 2021, Loecher set a new one-season record for beavers with 10 shots longer than 50 yards.
“When he got in, he was rather inexperienced,” Cocos said. “But he was a hard worker and had some talent. He came and worked in it and made himself a really good gambler. … After being around him two months later, I knew he had the potential to be a strong player in Power 5. He has the right mindset.”
In four games this season for the 3-1 Beavers, Loecher hit 11 hits averaging 44.36 yards with five falling inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.