"I’m so ready. I like all of the off-season and all of the workouts, but I’m not here to play workouts. I’m here to
play football, so I’m definitely really excited about getting into the season, playing football and
hitting people again."
This was Luke Joeckel at 2012 SEC Media Days in July. This was the soft-spoken young man who quietly told his new coach on the flight back from Birmingham to College Station that Texas A&M was being disparaged. Undervalued at the media days of this proud league. The A&M representatives had been bombarded with questions on their seemingly imminent demise.
Luke Joeckel was recruited by Mike Sherman - perhaps the finest offensive line mind alive right now. Luke was a quick study and started essentially the day he stepped on campus alongside his buddy and fellow protege, Jake Matthews.
You'll have to pry, but ask any offensive lineman if they prefer run blocking or pass blocking. Run blocking will win in a landslide. Joeckel and Matthews came to A&M to be under the teaching of Mike Sherman and to develop their craft. Both performed beyond measure even as true freshmen - a rarity for offensive linemen.
Joeckel and Matthews were young, elite bookends for dynamic Aggie offenses for their first few years. As history had it, the 2011 A&M season went wildly haywire. The offensive line mastermind and head coach, Sherman, was fired.
Coach Kevin Sumlin inherited arguably the best two tackles in the entire country. He also inherited a quarterback you probably have heard about.
By now you've seen everything you can see about Johnny Manziel. You've seen the otherworldly on-field heroics. You've seen the late night talk show circuit. You've seen the Heisman. You've seen a guy with fantastic seats at any sporting event he chooses. Yes, you've seen a 20 year old being a 20 year old on TMZ.
Johnny Manziel's Heisman season was played behind the best offensive line in the country and the best line in Texas A&M history.
Offensive linemen are different.
This line was given the challenge/privilege of blocking for one of the most unique and dynamic football players in recent football history. Instead of driving off the ball and pancaking lesser foes, this line had to pass block for a guy who's M.O. was "YOLO F'it, let's roll". Blocking for Johnny Manziel has got to be a blast and wildly stressful at the same time. The Texas A&M offensive line was depended upon to hold their blocks for what seemed like an eternity countless times.
This new, Air Raid offense led the league in rushing. Thank you, offensive line.
Offensive linemen are different.
You won't ever see celebrity photos of Luke Joeckel. Luke Joeckel likely thinks the word "celebrity" is ridiculous despite what his first paycheck will say. Luke Joeckel loves college and loves Texas A&M. The opportunity of being the first player taken in the 2013 NFL Draft is almost a burden to a guy that never wished for a spotlight. He isn't taking his talents to South Beach (though I'm sure he'd be happy to block for Tannehill). He's taking his skill and work ethic to a franchise that needs a quarterback's blindside protected for a decade. By all accounts, this was a brutally difficult decision for Joeckel. He addressed the situation in the most apt way possible with a letter:
Dear 12th Man and Texas A&M University,
As you may have heard, I have decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft and forego my senior season at Texas A&M. While I am excited about my future, I wanted you to know this was a very hard decision. To leave A&M, my brother Matt, my teammates, the coaches and the 12th Man is the toughest thing I have ever done. However, like graduating high school early to come to A&M three years ago, I feel like I again have an opportunity that I cannot pass up.
Before I leave, I want to take this opportunity to thank...
...The 12th Man - You are a major reason I chose Texas A&M. During the recruiting process, I realized that other schools and football programs didn't have the same spirit, support and character that we have here. Every Aggie player is lucky to represent you and I am proud of my three years playing for you.
...My teammates - This year, we were closer than ever. We had the season we did because we all had each other's backs and nobody doubted that. To Jake, Patrick, Cedric, Jarvis and the rest of the guys in that room, I am proud to be a Maroon Goon and thankful to call you my good friends and teammates. I'm also thankful to have had the opportunity to block for Johnny this year. I'm positive he's in good hands with the guys returning to the line next year.
...My coaches - I have been blessed to play for great coaches. Thank you for pushing me to improve in every practice and for leading us so successfully through our first year in the SEC.
...the Mays Business School - I am proud I am part of this great school and I have every intention to finish my degree in the near future. Thank you for equipping me to make this very difficult business decision.
...The Texas A&M Administration - I can't tell you how thankful I am that you moved us to the SEC. As a result of your decision, Texas A&M has many great opportunities - but speaking for myself, your decision meant I had the chance to play against the best competition in the country. That is a major reason why I am in the position I am now.
As I leave College Station to pursue my dream of playing in the NFL, know that I will be back often. Also know that I will do what I can to let everyone know how great A&M is. Hopefully, you feel I have been a good friend and served the 12th Man and University well. I know as I look back, it is you and all the great experiences I've had on and off the field that make me proud to be an Aggie.
Offensive linemen are different and we're all better for it. Gig 'em, Luke.