Going into the season, the word on Jesse Luketa was “versatile.” And when the Penn State linebacker, turned defensive end, lined up at both positions early in the year, the most impressed were those beside him.
“Going from lining up defensive end to lining up at linebacker on the next series… I’m still amazed and not sure how he’s able to do all those things,” defensive end Arnold Ebiketie recalled after Penn state’s opening day win over Wisconsin. “I’m just glad he’s on my team, honestly.”
Luketa’s biggest moments in the season came early and his pick-six against Ball State was arguably the best defensive play this season for the Nittany Lions.
“That was the best interception I’ve ever seen! Oh my gosh, what?” Junior Marquis Wilson said following the game. “I got the play still in my eyes… I lost my mind! I wish I could have run on the field. I wish it was practice, then we could just run on the field because that was a moment right there. I don’t know if I’m going to see a better pick than that all year! That might be it!”
As the season wore on, Luketa didn’t quite flash the same. He finished with 61 tackles 0.5 sacks. He was ineffective in the pass rush, but On3’s Thomas Frank Carr said Luketa’s run defense was next level.
“I love the ways he uses his hands as a run stopper,” he said. “He was one of PFF’s top run stoppers in terms of tackles for a loss and plays behind the line of scrimmage and you can see that on film, he was almost impossible to block sometimes.”
Invited to the NFL combine, Luketa struggled to pop on paper, and got hurt running the 40-yard dash. In a recent visit to his former high school Mercyhurst Prep in Erie, Luketa said adversity is just apart of his story, and said he believes whoever takes a chance on him will get a highly motivated leader.
“My track record shows the only thing that motivates me day in day out is getting a great education, which I did, and that ultimately led me to play football and that’s the position I’m in today,” he said. “You’re getting a guy who is a great leader and a great teammate and a high energy individual that loves to play the game.”