Prep football

Luick pointing the way for improved Portage defense

2013-09-12T17:30:00Z 2013-09-13T01:00:05Z Luick pointing the way for improved Portage defenseJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com
September 12, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

Smile, make up for it on the next play, have fun.

When something goes wrong on Portage's defense, Aaron Luick relies on his tried and true phrase, to get things back on course.

"When guys get down on themselves, I try to pick them up," Luick said. "It's not browbeating, it's like, 'Hey, let's go, we can do this.'"

Whether it's the nature of his linebacker position, his desire to become a teacher/coach or just his outgoing personality, Luick has a way about him that makes him the Indians' defensive 'it guy.'

"He hurt his ankle at the beginning of camp, and it's times like that when you realize how much he does," Portage coach Wally McCormack said of Luick. "He's the one calling out tendencies, lining everybody up. When you take that out of the equation, you try to look at it as a positive, but the minute he was back, we were instantly better. The leadership roles he's assumed, he's very positive for the other kids."

Being the defensive quarterback suits Luick fine. From the time he started playing Pop Warner at the age of 10, it's something he's always done. A lineman his first year, he moved to linebacker the following season and has played there since.

"It comes naturally," he said. "My whole career, I've always thought of myself as a leader. I feel like it goes with the position. You're involved with the front seven and the (secondary), too. I've always understood the game. It's like second nature. I understand what the offense is trying to do. "

And Luick has no problem conveying that to teammates.

"It's a lot harder to find natural leaders," McCormack said. "Kids are playing organized sports when they're 3, 4, 5. They're not going out and starting games on their own. When you're a senior, it's easy to yell at sophomores and juniors. Aaron's not afraid to say no to his peers. He's the kind of person who's working hard all the time, so when he says something, they're not going to take offense."

McCormack thinks Luick could make a good running back and said he also has the hands to play receiver. He just doesn't want to mess with a good thing on defense, where Luick is one of only two returning starters. The 5-foot-8, 190-pound senior is second on the team to Kenyota Rollins in tackles (29) and tackles for losses (four).

"It's night and day compared to last year," McCormack said. "Philosophically, they were so different when (previous coach) Jeromy (Flowers) was here. They brought six, seven, eight guys every down and played man. It took a while for them to learn to play our way."

Portage's front line of Rollins, Chris Russell, Tyler McCann and Dylan Kettwig have made life a lot better for Luick and company. With them winning the battles up front, it allows the linebackers to run freely to the football.

"It makes it easier for us to make plays," Luick said. "Everybody has their job to do and everybody's getting their job done. We understand our roles. We're working a lot harder. We want it more. We have something to prove … that we're better than all these other teams."

The youngest of three brothers, Luick took his lumps growing up. The backyard school of hard knocks accounts for his toughness and explains why he enjoys being on the delivery end of the punishment so much.

"I like to hit people, getting physical," he said. "It's a good way to blow off steam."

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