TERRE HAUTE —
For someone who missed an entire season due to a knee injury, Indiana State center FN Lutz has certainly kept himself visible since then.
Despite his injury — suffered on the last play of the spring game in 2012 — he was a constant presence at football practice. By the end of the season, he was running the scout team. He attended all games and watched from the press box as a quasi-player-coach.
The larger-than-life Lutz was also popular as ever amongst his teammates and on-campus. No more so than when he filmed a basketball promotional spot prior to ISU’s game against Creighton in February.
In an ad that featured ISU’s blimp comically exploding into the Creighton banner inside Hulman Center, he (loudly) implored Sycamore fans to show up for the game. The video became a TV advertisement and it went viral within the ISU community and the Missouri Valley Conference.
It served its intended purpose too as the game drew the largest student turnout during the 2012-13 season by a wide margin.
But the visibility Lutz had did not make up for the time lost when he missed the 2 012 season. Though he was visible, he felt invisible as far as being a contributor to ISU’s success.
“The hardest thing about the rehab was not being out here with the guys. I had to do my own thing during certain periods. In a way, I almost felt like I was letting the guys down by not being out there,” Lutz said.
Lutz will be out there to help the Sycamores in 2013 … and not a moment too soon. Along with veterans Paul Patrick, Adam Masters, Dakota Vermillion and Nick Rice, Lutz gives ISU an offensive line more experienced than expected given the extra year of eligibility he gained for the coming season.
Lutz — who was an All-MVC first team preseason selection last season despite his injury — is re-invigorated. He said there’s no physical side-effects from the ligament damage his suffered in his left knee on the final play of last year’s spring game, when his foot got caught in the Memorial Stadium field turf.
“It’s good to hit somebody. When you go a year without hitting somebody, it gets at you. It’s good to get back into the mentality. It’s not just schemes anymore, I can go out and do it,” Lutz said.
Lutz said that the new offense being implemented by ISU coach Mike Sanford has created some changes. There’s not as many calls as there had been in the past and he said the linemen have more flexibility within pass protection blocking than in the past.
Lutz’s impact on his team goes beyond his blocking. The personable Lafayette Harrison graduate has long been a unifying presence on the Sycamores, and while he was able to serve that role even without playing in 2012, his teammates have greater piece of mind when he’s on the field with them.
“FN is an all-around leader. He does a great job. He’s old, not in health, but he’s old on the field. He’s played these teams for years,” ISU running back Shakir Bell said. “FN is an All-American type of guy. He’s been one of the best assets to that front five since I’ve been here. It was really tough running without him last year, but it’s a blessing to have him back this year.”
Lutz said he learned a lot during his one-year absence from the field and he felt his time off might pay dividends for him this year.
“I got to know a lot of the freshmen on the scout defensive line and I really learned the game from a mental aspect sitting up in the box charting players. It gave me a birdseye view of what goes on,” Lutz said.
Sanford is pleased to have Lutz as an anchor for the offensive line. Lutz’s reputation preceded him … even before Sanford accepted the ISU job.
“I heard about him through the interview process. Ron Prettyman talked about what a good person and leader he is. He came to the press conference when I was hired. I think it set the tone for the kind of guy he is. I’m impressed he’s our center,” Sanford said.
As for Lutz’s career in commercials, he was not asked to appear in another spot after the ISU-Creighton men’s basketball game. He joked that he needed, “… an agent to find out what’s going on?”
“It was fun helping get people to games. It’s important to have that fanbase for our sports,” Lutz said.
n Scrimmage today — ISU will have its second spring football scrimmage at 3:30 p.m. today. Last week’s scrimmage was interspersed into regular practice time, but Sanford said today’s version would go from start-to-finish.
“It’ll be more of a scrimmage the whole way. We’re going to work different situations. We’ll do goal line, coming out [backed up against goal line], we’ll do some normal move-the-ball situations and we’ll concentrate on third downs,” Sanford said. “We’ll do some red zone and overtime situations. We’ll go all-live until the end when we do a two-minute.”
A snow day on March 26 postponed a scheduled practice to this past Monday. ISU will have had four practices by week’s end. It’s about as close in the spring as a team gets to replicating regular season practice time. Sanford wasn’t surprised at what it revealed.
“By design, we wanted to get stronger in the offseason and we didn’t condition. One thing we’ve noticed is we have to get in better condition. We’ve reminded ourselves of that this week. We had a very physical practice on Monday, helmets and shoulder pads on Tuesday and helmets and shorts on Thursday. We got a lot out of it,” Sanford said.
ISU has one week of spring practice left. The Spring Game will be played at 3 p.m. on April 20.