Kentucky has landed a new five-star recruit, who promises to provide instant energy — and a lot of perspective — for the team this season.
Luke Klausing, an 11-year-old from Louisville who is battling cystic fibrosis, announced his intention to become a part of UK’s team at a mock news conference on Wednesday morning at Kroger Field.
The grade-school wide receiver picked from three different Kentucky hats and signed a “national letter of intent” thanks to a national organization called Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that connects local college athletic teams with children facing serious and chronic illnesses.
It seemed a predestined connection for Klausing, who has grown up loving Kentucky football.
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“We’re all about making memories ever since Luke was born,” explained his mom, Jessica. “We travel to see the Cats. It’s what we do as a family to take a break from the disease. Kentucky is our life and we love UK. This means a lot to us.”
Several Kentucky players were on hand for the signing ceremony, including tight end C.J. Conrad, offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei, quarterback Walker Wood, cornerback Lonnie Johnson and running back Zach Johnson.
After the mock news conference, Luke played some football on the Kroger Field turf with the players, showing off his receiving and passing abilities.
“I don’t get goosebumps much anymore, but I got them today, just to see these guys — you have All-Americans and future NFL players — talking to an 11-year-old kid … and embracing him,” said Joey Klausing, Luke’s father, who has helped start a charity in Louisville that’s raised more than $1 million to go toward research to cure the disease that affects more than 30,000 people living in the United States alone.
“It’s heartwarming. … These guys have been selfless.”
Wednesday’s event seemed to touch the UK players just as much, especially when they learned about Luke’s daily routine.
The 11-year-old boy wakes up every day at 6 a.m. and does an hour and a half of breathing treatment, which includes nasal sprays, inhalers and multiple medications.
Luke, who has been going through treatments since he was five days old, goes to school and then goes through another round of treatments in the afternoon before going to his own football practices. He undergoes more treatment at night.
“That’s every day,” Joey Klausing said. “There’s no off days, no skipping a workout.”
That was especially meaningful to a player like Conrad, who has been going through rounds of rehab while coming off both a foot and a shoulder surgery this offseason.
“I’m a wimp,” the senior tight end joked of his own rehab. “I went through that whole rehab process in the spring and long days that I thought were long days — just to hear what he does on a daily basis — it’s crazy. It’s incredible that he has such a positive attitude.”
Klausing, who will wear No. 18 for his favorite player, Randall Cobb, will be a fixture around UK football this season attending practices, games, meals and other special events. That’s going to be extra motivation for the Cats.
Conrad added: “It’s good to have a guy like that be a part of our team this year because he’s going to bring energy up because of how happy he is and to see what he goes through on a daily basis.”
As for the new recruit, Luke had some bold predictions for the season.
When asked what he was most looking forward to this season, the 4-foot-7, 72-pound player said “probably beating Florida.”
When asked if the Cats will beat Tennessee, too, Luke smiled. “Definitely.”