Doctor Who is a British science fiction television show that follows the adventures of the “Doctor”, a humanoid alien creature with the ability to time travel in order to protect people, principles and just about everything in-between. The program has been produced by BBC off and on since 1963, with runs through the 1980’s, mid-90’s and again from 2005-present. Doctor Who remains one of most popular television shows across the Atlantic…and in Luke McAvoy’s living room.
A Bloomington (Illinois) High School product, McAvoy simply began playing football in the 7th grade because the family tree said so. His father Tim played at the University of Illinois from 1977-81 and brother (Tim, also) was a Michigan Wolverine from 2005-09. Additionally, his twin brother Kyle pancaked defensive lineman alongside him in high school and now with the Gophers.
Developing a love for the game, Luke began turning heads, including an unexpected and unintended one in an FBS head coach. Prior to his junior year at Bloomington, he received his first offer…except he didn’t.
The first offer I got was actually meant for Kyle. I received the offer letter, called to say thank you and talk to the coaches a little bit. The coach had no idea what I was talking about and said sorry but that offer was actually meant for Kyle. He’s been doing it for over 20 years and never did his staff accidentally offer the wrong recruit.
Fortunately for the fun-loving McAvoy, the embarrassing confusion didn’t phase him and the actual offers started coming in, as did his immense appreciation for the opportunity to be recruited by excellent academic institutions. Contrary to popular belief and dirty reputation of student-athlete recruiting, he very much enjoyed the process.
I loved it. I loved the idea of following in my brother’s and dad’s footseps and being able to get a degree at a great school while playing a game that I loved. To feel wanted along with Kyle was a pretty cool feeling.
The McAvoy twins ultimately elected to play together at the next level, committing to the U of M in 2010. Following a coaching change at Minnesota in early 2011 and subsequent stage of scholarship limbo, albeit brief but one that hundreds of high school student-athletes face each year, McAvoy received a phone call that would ease tension and allow his dream to continue.
Although he developed a positive relationship with Tim Brewster and his staff, he was advised by the other Tims in his life, both of whom faced college coaching changes, to select a school for the institution and overall environment, a simple yet important whisper that he and Kyle took very seriously. The twin brothers fell in love with the University of Minnesota during the recruiting process and were concerned the scholarship would be yanked under a new staff.
I received a personal call from (then-AD) Joel Maturi. He wanted me to know that all scholarships offered under Coach Brewster would be honored by the administration regardless of who was hired as the new head coach. That was awesome. I loved the U of M too much to look elsewhere. I loved Minneapolis and we knew what opportunities the school could give us”
And Luke McAvoy has taken tremendous advantage of those opportunities. The redshirt junior is profoundly aware of what has been given to him and his teammates, a mindset that provokes a mature appetite to enjoy his time in Minnesota. He has worked closely with the Student-Athlete Development office in volunteering nearly 200 hours to community service since arriving on campus in 2011.
Anissa Lightner, Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development gushed over Luke’s impact in three-plus years and involvement with organizations such as Playworks, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Be the Match, telling Next Impulse Sports, “It was exciting to see this young man grow in his personal and professional development so quickly while watching an incredible passion for giving back to others.”
Lightner was approached by a quiet, yet eager 18-year-old three years ago in search of weekly projects needing help with or community service events he could join. He kept coming back every week for the next three years, even volunteering in her office a few hours per week and loving every minute of it.
The school and community allows me to play football and continue my education. There is a drive to give back to those that supported me academically and athletically. People come out to every home game to support us and this is mine and our team’s chance to say thank you. The interaction alone is very rewarding.”
During our chat with Luke, he was asked to give one name, two if he’d like, of someone on the football, academic or athletic department staff that works his or her tail off to support student-athletes but does so behind the scenes, away from the media and away from the recognition.
Luke refused to give us one name, or even two. He deliberately reeled off NINE names and proceeded to passionately speak on each of their roles in improving the student-athlete experience at the University of Minnesota, a major talking point for the Big Ten conference and the NCAA during 2014 and beyond. He was sorry, but not sorry for the blatant disregard for the parameters of the question.
Realizing that improving the overall welfare of student-athletes is imperative to the future of the financially-driven world of intercollegiate athletics, Luke pursued another voluntary role on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committe (SAAC). The student-athlete run, institution-supported group with two representatives from each athletic team is also supported by the NCAA itself and serves as a liaison between the student-athletes and the athletic department, Big Ten conference and the NCAA in order to more effectively address issues facing the overall experience on the student-athlete. McAvoy has since risen to President of the University of Minnesota SAAC and will represent the Gophers at Big Ten SAAC meetings during the 2014 academic year.
While his passion for giving student-athletes an additional seat at the NCAA table drives Luke to push SAAC members, he equally cherishes the less serious side of things.
Honestly, it also gives us a chance to meet student-athletes from other sports while making sure we make a long-lasting positive impact on our community.
As intercollegiate athletics continues a monumental face lift with new power structures among many other changes, McAvoy possesses a unique ability to grasp the student-athlete responsibilities but also promotes a humble nature to ensure the four-plus years is taken advantage of, even if it doesn’t come with much playing time.
Largely due to constant reminders from Coach Jerry Kill and academic advisers Jacki Lienesch and Kyle Quagliana about life’s priorities, he is fully aware the journey does continue after those four years, an adventure he is very excited about. Following graduation and completion of his eligibility at Minnesota, the offensive lineman wants nothing more than to become a high school English teacher in Minneapolis.
It’s home now. I love it here.
What else does Luke Ronald McAvoy love? Unlimited meals, the future of college football and mom’s homemade lasagna top the list. Add in a screening of Billy Bob Thornton’s The Alamo, and a dramatic reading of The Book Thief or 1984 and it’s an exquisite afternoon in Dinkytown.
The Jon Gruden-like zeal for just about anything does not go unnoticed, whether in the classroom, on the field or watching film, people are fully aware that he embodies the true student-athlete.
“Luke is a great young man who stands for all the right things,” Adam Clark, Gophers Director of Football Operations, told Next Impulse Sports. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”
All those right things add up to a sophisticated passion for public education, college football, community service and the curious inkling to name a new NFL team the “London Poets”. Luke McAvoy is truly a 21-year-old fun-loving, hardworking, selfless student-athlete that has played exactly zero snaps of college football since arriving on campus.
The Gophers open the season on Thursday (Aug. 28th) against Eastern Illinois on Big Ten Network.
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Photo Courtesy: Brace Hemmelgarn