K.J. Luster takes game to the next level

Rifled-armed and record-setting Overton quarterback K’Jheryion “K.J.” Luster has signed an official letter of intent to play for the Wildcats of Louisiana College.

Luster said after visiting the Pineville, La. campus last week, and meeting the coaching staff, he knew he wanted to be a Wildcat.

“The situation is perfect,” he said. “It’s a good school, a solid team, and an opportunity to play […] I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

“I’m excited,” he added. “I can’t wait to get out there and compete.”

Luster, who rewrote the Mustang record book in 2012 for passing yards and touchdowns, led his Mustangs to a 7-5 record and their first playoff win since 1995.

OHS athletic director/head football coach Josh Barton said he was thrilled with Luster signing to an NCAA school, and credited his long hours of physical as well as mental training in preparing for this opportunity.

“From the very beginning, K.J.’s been an on and off the field leader of this team,” he said. “From studying film and preparing for what the defenses are going to bring, to continuing to grow stronger and faster […] but, most importantly, taking care of business in the classroom.”

luster-and-hawkinsIn addition to various All-East Texas and All-District honors, Luster was named first-team All-Rusk County, even beating out quarterbacks from larger classifications for the honor.

Barton said, for all of Luster’s accomplishments as an athlete, it was his academic accomplishments that made the difference.

“K.J. has earned every honor he’s received on the field of play, and that’s worthy of note, but the first thing that colleges look at when they recruit an athlete is his grades,” he said. “Talent, ability, and on-field accomplishments are good for getting you noticed, but it’s what you do off the field that gets you in or not.”

LC Director of Football Operations Vance Morris agreed, saying it was not only Luster’s prodigious talent and superlative character that drew their attention, but Luster’s work in the classroom.

“First of all, he’s just a great young man, as well as an excellent student and superb athlete. K.J.’s got a million-dollar smile, a firm handshake, he looks you right in the eye, and can lead his team,” he said. “At Louisiana College, we’re looking for student athletes who excel both on and off the field, and K.J. is just the kind of young man we’re looking for.”

Morris said he isn’t concerned with Luster making the jump from a small Class 1A school to Division III NCAA competition.

“Having studied K.J. on film, and having talked with him in person, I have confidence in the caliber of athlete and the kind of young man he is,” he said. “Over the span of his career at Overton he’s shown the ability to adapt to changes in system and to face many difficult challenges […] situations where either the game is on the line or trying to dig out of a deep hole.”

While a number of colleges were interested in Luster, not all of them could guarantee him a fair shot at quarterback — the position he’s played since grade school. But Morris said that Luster will have every opportunity as a signal caller.

“K.J. Luster is a quarterback. Period. We recruited him as a quarterback and we’re signing him as a quarterback, but he’s also a talented athlete,” he said. “That said, we are returning a bunch of players from a No. 23-ranked D-III playoff squad, including two senior quarterbacks.”

Morris said Luster could very well see action early at other positions, such as defensive back or wideout, but the coaching staff believe his future with the program is under center.

“Starting out, we’re looking to get him on the field any way we can, all while continuing his development as a quarterback,” he said.

Luster’s father Jerry, himself an all-state athlete for OHS who helped Tyler Junior College win back-to back NJCAA national titles and finishing his playing career at D-II Southern Arkansas University, expressed excitement for his son’s accomplishments.

“K.J.’s worked hard, battled back from adversity, and he’s taken care of business in the classroom,” he said. “I’m proud of what he’s been able to do on the high school level and look forward to seeing him take that next step.”

Luster’s mother, Kimberly Jackson, agreed.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I can’t wait to be a Wildcat momma!”

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