The final run: Loudenburg closing in on 2,500 career rushing yards
Luke Loudenburg doesn’t like to talk about himself, so he lets everyone do it for him. It’s not hard for others to find words.
When the redshirt-senior running back breaks long touchdown runs, he credits his offensive line, shying away from the attention. And when he cracked Dakota Wesleyan University’s top-10 career rushing leaders -- replacing his father, Troy, in the process -- he offered just a laugh.
“The little bugger has had so many accolades and he never really talks about anything,” said Troy Loudenburg, whose 2,036 career rushing yards now ranks 11th in DWU history. “He’s over-modest. He plays everything down. I kind of gave him a little crap about it and he laughed, but that’s about it.”
Luke sits eighth in program history with 2,485 career rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry. It’s the same success he’s seen across multiple sports growing up as a four-time state wrestling champion and the 2015 Legion baseball state tournament MVP.
Still, the fixation on his height has never left. It’s been there since people questioned Troy -- Howard High School’s defensive coordinator -- putting the 5-foot-5, 120-pound freshman at safety and fullback in the Tigers’ wing-T offense. Even now, DWU offensive coordinator Loren Endsley said, “That’s probably the No. 1 thing people talk to me about.”
But if all you see is his 5-foot-7, 155-pound stature, then you don’t really know Loudenburg.
“Big time,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said when asked if Loudenburg’s size is overblown. “If you look at any level … playing running back and playing college football is more than your height and size.”
Loudenburg is used to the chatter. He just wants to, “go out and play, and whatever happens, happens.”
What’s happened is a career that’s taken Loudenburg through every role. He went from playing on the scout team during his redshirt year, to playing mostly on special teams, to being a secondary option next to DWU’s Dillon Turner-Hayden Adams passing duo.
The last two years, he’s been the focal point of the offense, as his 230 carries ranked fifth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference last season and earned him honorable mention honors.
“It’s been really enjoyable just seeing the work I’ve done pay off and being able to get more reps,” said Loudenburg, whose 497 rushing yards this season are dampened by an ankle injury. “... (Being all-GPAC honorable mention) was kind of a surprise. But it was special to me.”
“Going to work everyday,” has been a key to Loudenburg’s success, and that started early. He always tagged along with his older brother, Levi, as Troy, who is also Howard’s weight coach, gave him weights to carry around the gym. By the time he was 7 years old, he could bench the bar.
“Levi called me up and said, ‘Dad, guess what? Luke did the (45-pound) bar tonight. He did it five times. No problem,’ ” Troy said.
It was the start of becoming the elusive and shifty running back which leaves even Troy in awe, who said they have different running styles. Luke’s racked up 25 career rushing touchdowns, 540 receiving yards and had an underrated career as a pass blocker.
When a defender is able to unload a big hit on the shifty back, he bounces up quicker than a whack-a-mole game. Loudenburg grew up in that tough-minded setting, though, which saw him finish a baseball practice on a broken leg because Troy thought he only sprained his ankle.
“I’m not saying his dad made him tough, but he’s been around it his whole life and has to prove people wrong his whole life,” Cimpl said.
The Canova native’s time proving people wrong on the gridiron is about to end, which is why he said the ankle injury which kept him out of essentially three games was “unfortunate that it happened when it did.”
Still, the two-time captain never stopped leading. He doesn’t view himself as a vocal leader, but it’s evident the position group listens when he talks or gives encouragement.
“He’s never going to play with some of the guys that are redshirting,” Endsley said. “He’s still taking them under his wings and trying to show them how to do things, and developing that culture.”
A young running back core learning from someone who has 3,025 career offensive yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry doesn’t hurt.
“I told him he needs to be a motivational speaker,” Troy said. “Go tell your story because there’s not a lot of kids that even a lot bigger than that accomplish (as much as he did). … There were a lot of doubters. It’s hard to talk about him without acting like you’re bragging.”
Luke has other ideas, though. The running back that’s experienced every aspect as a player wants to see the game in a new way. He’ll graduate with a degree in sport, exercise and wellness this spring. But if he stays an extra year to attain a biology degree, too, he wants to help out with the DWU football team, and then later go into strength and conditioning.
He swears his playing career is over once the clock runs out on DWU’s 1 p.m. Saturday game against Hastings at Joe Quintal Field. It’s quickly approaching, but Luke doesn’t want to think about it.
“I’ve had a lot of fun however many years I’ve been playing, but I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said. “Obviously I love this game, but at a certain point, you start feeling a little older than you should everytime you lace them up. … I don’t like to think about that at all because I’ll be an absolute wreck when that time comes.”