Luper’s Super Season
J.T. Luper, No. 2, leaps to catch a pass from Chas Stallard near the sideline Saturday, Oct. 28 in Wantland Stadium. Luper was recently named Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Offensive Player of the Year. (Hayden Barzditis/The Vista)
After sitting out last season due to academic violations, University of Central Oklahoma wide receiver J.T. Luper returned to the football field and won Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association offensive player of the year.
“It was a wake-up call,” Luper said. “I learned that there are other things outside of football that is important.”
This is the first time a UCO player has won the award since joining the MIAA conference in 2012.
“I felt ecstatic, excited but not accomplished just yet,” Luper said. “I love the support of the people who have been watching and following the journey.”
Luper’s journey began at Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas where his size was first brought into question.
“I’ve always been considered undersized,” Luper said.
Luper started his career as a defensive back before coaches saw what he could do with the ball in his hands before the start of his junior season.
“I played defense until they saw me run and saw my ball skills,” Luper said. “After that, they moved me to receiver.”
Luper succeeded at wide receiver as he caught 81 passes for 1,470 yards and 23 touchdowns his senior season. He was named district MVP and an honorable mention All-State pick. Despite this, major scholarship offers did not come.
“All the bigger schools were telling me we want you as a preferred walk-on, we want you to gain more weight. It was tough,” Luper said.
Luper was advised to take the junior college route so he enrolled at Tyler Community College in Tyler, Texas in order to gain more exposure and work on his skills. After his final season where he caught 16 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown, he headed for Edmond.
“Coming from a JUCO to a four-year university mid-year was rough,” Luper said. “It was a grind but I was able to make the transition.”
Luper made an immediate impact his first year totaling 1,425 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. After sitting out last season, he returned to the gridiron with a vengeance hauling in 101 receptions for 1,544 yards and 12 touchdowns, all single-season school records. He leads all divisions in receiving yards and leads Division II in receptions.
“I wasn’t aware I was breaking them,” Luper said about the records. “Us winning and our record being on the positive end is all I worried about.”
The 5-foot-9-inch Sherman native recently accepted an invitation to the seventh annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl where he will have a chance to show all the coaches who passed on him what they missed.
“Knowing that it’s a big stage with primarily Division I players is what I’ve been ready for,” Luper said. “This is a great opportunity to show what I’m made of.”