Coming into high school, Calloway County wide receiver and cornerback Luke Schwepker was nothing more than a welterweight speedster. He loved the game of football, but he hadn't the meat to take a hit and absorb the constant brutish contact of the sport.
His dad, longtime Murray State volleyball head coach Dave Schwepker, knew this all too well. His son was quick and had good hands, sure. But physically? He just wasn't ready.
Schwepker was allowed to train and suit up for his freshman (2016) and sophomore (2017) seasons with the Lakers, but -- per dad's orders -- he wasn't supposed to take the varsity field until deemed otherwise.
On Aug. 27, 2017, however, Schwepker did take the field, and almost got away with it.
With the Lakers trailing Murray at halftime of the annual "Crosstown Classic," then-coach Mickey Garrison subbed in Schwepker, who came alive in the second half for three catches with 42 yards receiving and one carry for 15 yards in the final two quarters of an eventual 42-19 loss to the Tigers.
Pops was out of town, traveling with his team at the start of the '17 volleyball season, but caught wind of his son's actions on the turn of a dial.
"My dad heard it on the radio, and I got in real trouble," Schwepker remembered, laughing. "He was in another state for volleyball, and he heard it on the radio. I couldn't even pad up the other Fridays after that."
True to his word, Schwepker didn't suit up for the rest of 2017 -- the only registered stats coming from that very first game against Murray.
"It was tough on everyone, because the seniors -- when I was a freshman -- I was supposed to be playing," Schwepker added. " And everyone was all kind of mad at me for not being able to play. It made me feel bad, but I kept going with it and had trust in it."
At the start of 2018, Schwepker's metaphorical chains were released. He wasn't just allowed to dress. He was allowed to gallop on the gridiron. He'd filled in his 6-foot frame to roughly 170 pounds, and in first-year coach Chris Champion's offense, he was guaranteed to see the ball on deep receptions, screens and at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
He was also better equipped to handle punishment, and even more properly prepared to deliver it.
Eleven games later, Schwepker had posted 18 touchdowns and more than 1,300 all-purpose yards. The Lakers went 3-8, and came within a frog's hair of three other wins against Marshall County, Hancock County and Hopkinsville.
"I've been playing football since third grade, but dad didn't let me play varsity until the 2018 season," Schwepker said. "And that's when it all exploded, and that's when I started getting all the attention. He knew that I was too small to play until last year, and it definitely helped getting bigger.
"I thank him for it, because it worked."
Now, Schwepker is toting a two-week-old offer from OVC power Southeast Missouri State, and he hopes others are on the way. Over the course of his five summer camps in '19 (Ole Miss, Jacksonville State, Murray State, SEMO, Western Kentucky), he notes he was able to post an unofficial 4.45 in his 40-yard dash with a 10-0 broad jump and a sub-5.0 shuttle.
Add on his 35-to-36-inch vertical, and the now-senior believes he's close to making college football less about a dream, and more about a reality.
Murray State football is, of course, interested to add Schwepker to the fold of its Class of 2020. As are other teams. But he notes that, despite dad coaching Racer volleyball, there's no nudge to stay home just because.
"My dad has helped me a lot, because he just wants me to do whatever I want to do," Schwepker said. "He's put no pressure on me at all, and he just wants me to be happy wherever I want to go. I'll just make my decision, and that's what I'm going to do."
Until those decisions come, Schwepker can focus on playing high school football one last season working in the slot, then turn to track-and-field with the Lakers in hopes of defending a 4x200-meters championship.
"Offensively, I'll be playing a lot of slot this year because that's where I feel like I'll be playing a lot in college, and it's where the coaches are going to allow me to play," he said. "I'll be outside a lot, too. And, of course, we'll do our little 'ninja' package again, the Wildcat.
"We have a really good offense. We can do a lot of really good things on offense. I'm hoping to score a lot of points, no matter how we do it."