Prep of the Year: Luke McKernan

Grace Bouton

“I came into Redwood as a 90-pound, five-two freshmen. I didn’t even play that much,” Luke McKernan, star varsity running back said.

After putting in hours of work and gaining 80 pounds, three years later, McKernan has proven he is no longer the scrawny freshman who first stepped onto the Redwood field. With 1,128 rushing yards, sixteen touchdowns and 112.8 yards per game according to MaxPreps, McKernan has evolved into both a dominant force in the Giant’s backfield and a motivating voice in the locker room.

For McKernan, watching Redwood football legend Nick Calazaretta during his freshman year and playing behind 2018 MCAL’s (Marin County Athletic League) offensive player of the year Alex Aguero inspired him to improve. This motivation, combined with his persistent work ethic, allowed him to harness his natural athletic ability and transform from a small freshman to the focal point of Redwood’s offense.

“I looked up to the people above me. Seeing Nick Calzaretta, I was a freshman and I just wanted to be like that,” McKernan said. “And then being behind Alex last year just gave me inspiration to keep working hard and develop as a player from freshman year. I just wanted to be the best that I could and develop my skills as much as I could with the things that I had in front of me.”

Avoiding a tackle, McKernan runs down field with the ball.

According to his teammate Jack Loebbaka, a senior fullback on varsity football and a four-year teammate of McKernan’s, it is McKernan’s determination and discipline that separates him as a player.

“He’s actually one of the most dedicated guys in terms of working out. He’s always been athletic, but he didn’t always have the size or the strength. He put in the work freshman year to be able to play at this level,” Loebbaka said.

Allen Talley, head coach of the varsity football team, expressed similar sentiments to Loebbaka, but also attributes McKernan’s success to his strong mentality.

“[McKernan is a] tough kid, tough on himself, just always wants to be perfect, which is good,” Talley said. “He doesn’t ever want to quit. He’s one of those kids that he wants to go every play regardless if he’s showing good, if he’s beat up, he just always wants to go and give a hundred percent.”

Though his discipline stood out in his time under Coach Talley, it was McKernan’s game intelligence as a freshman that Coach Talley first took notice of.

“He’s smart. He knew the playbook, good vision, running the ball. He had some good skills, but he had real good vision hitting the hole, and we noticed that when he was younger. Good football smarts,” Talley said.

This hard work and mental toughness is what allowed him to not only earn the first team All League award for MCALs, but also a leadership position on the team.

“He’s looked at as a senior leader by everybody, especially the younger guys. He’s always really supportive, and he keeps everything lighthearted. He is a really fun guy to have,” Loebbaka said.

Stiff arming a defender, McKernan runs the ball up the field.

This disciplined yet fun environment that McKernan helped foster was both a reason for and a result of the team’s success this past season.

“I feel like the whole team during the season is like a huge family. We were just all there for each other and playing for each other rather than just a couple of guys,” McKernan said.

Though McKernan’s competitive football days are over, the team comradery that he experienced this year will remain in McKernan’s life as he’s planning to play rugby at Cal Poly next year. 

McKernan will never have another 60 yard breakout run or strap on pads and a Redwood jersey. However, the lessons that have come with playing football throughout high school will stay with him at Cal Poly and beyond.

“[Sports] just taught me so much, whether it’s through determination or figuring out important life lessons on how to maintain a schedule while not falling behind. I couldn’t imagine my life without sports,”  McKernan said.