The path Kaiser Luck has traveled to become a vital piece to Waverly-Shell Rock’s offense and special teams was unconventional.
He didn’t catch the attention of his coaches with highlight reel plays on Friday nights. Instead, Kaiser impressed the most on the practice field behind Go-Hawk Stadium.
As a junior last fall, Luck began the season on the JV squad. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nature of lower-level games often getting moved around or canceled altogether, he played in less than five games. He was thankful for the opportunity, but he also made the most of another.
Luck served as a member of the scout team, a unit that replicates each week’s varsity opponent during practice. Luck replicated each team’s top receiver and went up against W-SR’s first-team defense. He held his own, slicing through the secondary, leaping up and making contested catches. He did it enough to grab the attention of W-SR coach Mark Hubbard.
“Kaiser’s really a self-made man,” Hubbard said. “If you’re turning heads on the scout team, it usually tells us something about your character. It would be pretty easy to hang your head on the scout team. … He embraced it. It’s kind of a win-win. He could help the first-team defense and obviously help himself by going hard on that scout team.
“There would be a lot of plays where he would go up in traffic and get the ball. He’d get behind our secondary and, when that starts to happen on a regular basis, you have to start to ask yourself if this is a guy that we need to get over to the offensive side with our starting units.”
Luck to his new role to heart and made his own luck by pushing his starting teammates on the other side of the ball to be the best they could be.
“I saw it as a challenge of beating everyone else,” Luck said. “I had competition around me; we had a bunch of other great ‘X’s’ and I get to come to practice and work as hard as I can, so I can keep it, because there’s still competition. If I do bad one week and someone’s doing really good, I could lose it really easily. Every week’s a grind.”
Luck impressed his coaches enough to earn starting time on offense and special teams during the final three weeks of last season.
Over the summer, during 7 on 7 drills, weightlifting and conditioning sessions and team camps, Luck continued to impress. This time, he was set on earning a starting job. And he did just that. He’s the starting ‘X’ and the kickoff returner for the Go-Hawks. As a senior this season, Luck leads the Go-Hawks with 13 catches and 195 yards. At just 6-foot-1, those numbers are impressive. What he lacks in height, Luck makes up for with his pure athleticism. He owns a vertical jump of 35 inches, and he has an uncanny ability to create space, shed defenders and, when necessary, block downfield to open up running lanes for his teammates.
Luck credits his time spent on the scout team for the skills he’s now mastered.
“I was getting guarded by pretty good corners all year – the varsity corners – and I guess I just found ways to get open continuously throughout the year,” he said. “I found out that selling vertical and breaking down a lot harder helps a lot, and I’ve just stuck with that.”
Not only is Luck a threat in the passing game, but he can flip the field quickly each time he camps under a kickoff, ready to slingshot up the field and give his offense good field position. He averages 21 yards per return this season. His 37-yard kickoff return set up W-SR’s final touchdown of the first half during a 31-14 win at Webster City on Sept. 10.
“He stepped up in the return game and that’s just been an added benefit,” Hubbard said. “We weren’t sure where he would fit into that, but now obviously he’s a weapon in the return game, too. It shows you he’s gritty and tough to stick his nose in there and run those kicks back for us.”
When the W-SR (3-1) opens Class 4A, District 2 play at Waterloo East (1-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, he will look to build on what is becoming a memorable senior campaign. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team succeed.
Unconventional or not, the journey Luck has taken has paid off. Now, he’s enjoying the ride.
“I knew this year was going to be big,” he said. “So I want to do my part on the team and I knew if I did my part, then we could go a long way because then we’d be a threat from all over the field.”