The Spring Grove kicker has been offered a preferred walk-on spot by the Wildcats


Andrew Luckenbaugh can finally relax.

The Spring Grove senior kicker had known for more than a month that Northwestern's football program had a roster spot for him. He just needed to be accepted to the school before officially joining the team.

The moment Luckenbaugh was waiting for finally came Thursday, when he received his acceptance letter in the mail. The kicker will join the Wildcats as a preferred walk-on starting next season.

"It had been building up for a while, but I tried not to think about it because you can't worry about that stuff too much," Luckenbaugh said. "It's definitely a relief. I was trying not to get too worked up about it, and now I finally know."

The top kicker in the YAIAA this season, Luckenbaugh went 23-of-24 on extra points and converted eight field goals with a long of 45. He also handled punting duties for the Rockets.

Luckenbaugh considered a number of other schools including Albany, Shippensburg and Bucknell, but he said the opportunity to play for a Big Ten program with a strong academic reputation was too much for him to pass up. Northwestern was ranked 12th in the 2016 edition of U.S. News' national university rankings.

Although he didn't get a ton of attention from other major Division I teams, Luckenbaugh said he felt he could kick for a top program after he won field goal and kickoff competitions at a Notre Dame football camp this past summer.

"I hit a 59-yard (field goal) and a bunch of coaches and scouts came up to me and talked to me after," Luckenbaugh said. "And I've gone to a bunch of camps with college players, and my trainer always tells me I stack up with them."

Spring Grove head coach Kyle Sprenkle agreed that Luckenbaugh is good enough to kick at the Division I level, and said Northwestern will be a great fit for him.

"With me starting (at Spring Grove) this year, Andrew had the reputation of being an excellent kicker," Sprenkle said. "He's got great power in his leg, and he's very academic and wanted to go to a school with a very good academic standard."

Although Luckenbaugh considers himself extremely dedicated to football, he might have never started playing the sport if it wasn't for a taxi ride at Disney World the summer before he began eighth grade.

A soccer player at the time, Luckenbaugh was on vacation with his family when he shared a cab with then Coastal Carolina head coach David Bennett. He told Bennett how he had scored a goal from 50 yards out in a soccer game, which prompted the coach to urge Luckenbaugh to switch sports.

"My grandpa had always pushed for me to try kicking, and it just so happened I met the coach at Coastal Carolina, so I gave it a shot," Luckenbaugh said.

Luckenbaugh started playing football that fall, and five years later he'll joining a Division I program coming off a 10-3 season and a trip to the Outback Bowl. With the Wildcats returning two senior kickers who both received playing time last season, Luckenbaugh will likely spend 2016-17 as a backup.

Although he said he's ready to compete, Luckenbaugh is fine with using the next year to adjust to college football, school and living in Chicago. He's visited the campus twice, and he plans to officially move in at the end of July. Right now, he's planning to major in computer science.

"I've met the coach (Pat Fitzgerald), and their kickers and specialists, and they're all easy to get along with," Luckenbaugh said. "(Northwestern) is one of the top schools in the nation, in a great area. I'm sure I'll get a little homesick at first, but I'm looking forward to it."

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