Quarterback Jordan Luallen emerged as a burst of energy offensively in recent weeks and created a special conclusion to a circuitous college career.
CINCINNATI - Jordan Luallen can easily be spotted on the sideline. Screaming, jumping and trash-talking. Hugging, waving and high-fiving.
His excitement level could only be matched by the mascot, maybe. Coach's attempted to calm him down in the past, but with little effectiveness. Players don't bother.
"I think people try to at first but then realize I am just kind of in my own zone," Luallen said.
After a touchdown run at Memphis Luallen offered a shush to the crowd.
"I don't know what I was thinking," he said. "It just happened."
Luallen's intensity explosion doesn't stem from crushing Five-Hour Energys in the locker room or a last-minute weight-room party pump. Enthusiasm begins the business of affecting the game in any way possible.
"That's just my personality, too," he said. "I want to be very involved in everything. Whether it's me playing or cheering on my teammates I feel a very big part of this team and this program. I put a lot of time and effort into it. Regardless of whether I am going to play or not that's just who I am."
Lately, his sideline persona took on a different feel.
For a player who transferred schools, dropped weight, added weight, evolved as a leader and unselfishly learned five different positions in hopes of an opportunity to help the team win on the field, Luallen treats Saturdays like they have been half a decade of unrecognized labor in the making.
Because that's what they are.
Luallen exited Center Grove High School (Ind.) expecting make an impact as the No. 22 ranked quarterback in the country by ESPN.com. His reputation began with running skills as a quarterback, so he headed to Georgia Tech with their triple-option offense. He'd eventually transfer to UC eventually playing quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, tight end and fullback.
He'd experience brief flashes of opportunity, but for the most part relegated to head cheerleader duty again this year as a tight end/fullback on a spread attack. That is, until the last three weeks.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran inserted a wildcat package into the offense with Luallen at the helm spelling Brendon Kay. Experiment evolved into effectiveness instantaneously. Over the last three games he's rushed 27 times for 151 yards at 5.6 yards per carry. Only Tion Green has rushed for more yards over that span (153).
Luallen also hit 5 of 6 passes for 72 yards. He's contributed a touchdown (one rushing, one passing) in each of the last two games.
"For all the stuff I have gone through, all the position changes, I don't know for everyone else but it means a little bit more to me," Luallen said. "A lot of these guys, some of my teammates, have been able to be successful since Day 1. I've had to work five years to be able to get consistent playing time for three games."
The firebrand off the field assumed the same role on it.
"He's always a spark," linebacker Greg Blair said. "He's always being vocal when we need a spark being a crazy dude on the sideline."
Saturday against SMU Luallen will take the field for Senior Day ceremonies as one of the most under appreciated models of what made Universtiy of Cincinnati football a household name.
The AFCA named Luallen to their 22-member All-Good Works team in September. He was the first Bearcats player to receive the honor. A regular in the community, member of the 2012 Big East All-Academic team and a player whose taken mission trips to Nicaragua and other countries, he's developed a full-circle education beyond football.
You can find Luallen hours before kickoff leading the team prayer at midfield. You'll find him this summer collecting his Masters and - he hopes -- beginning his career as a strength coach. He and his girlfriend even hope to one day adopt a child from Haiti.
There's college athletes who do everything right and then there's Luallen. Only, many role models aren't rewarded with more than a pat on the back and excellence in leadership award. Until three weeks ago Luallen stood in the express lane for the same fate. His time on the field Saturday would end with hugs for his parents following pregame ceremonies.
Instead, Luallen takes on the role of offensive spark in the Bearcats critical final month run toward a possible American title. His path to this moment weaved circuitously and with a pit stop at two schools and five positions but concludes the way he hoped from the beginning: Making plays as a college quarterback.
"It's definitely not anything I expected," Luallen said. "Kind of brought everything full circle, so that has been kind of cool being able to end my career where everything started. It wouldn't feel as good now if I hadn't gone through what I've gone through. Had I done this from the beginning, yeah, it would be cool. But it definitely wouldn't be nearly as satisfying for me to end my football career having some success."
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