Jesse Luketa Embracing Role As Penn State Football’s ‘Canadian Ambassador’
Penn State football linebacker Jesse Luketa garnered plenty of attention earlier this month when he was seen working out with Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
The Ottawa native explained he’s trained with Giroux since 2016 and has known him for even longer but admitted he’s not much of a skater and hasn’t played hockey.
While Luketa doesn’t have much experience in his home country’s national pastime, he’s managed to help Penn State develop strong relationships with some of Canada’s top football talents.
Penn State currently has three Canadians on its roster, including Luketa, safety Jonathan Sutherland, and tight end Theo Johnson, along with several others on the way. Montreal native Malick Meiga committed to Penn State’s class of 2020 and is expected to join the team this fall, while four-star quarterback Christian Veilleux committed to the Nittany Lions this past April.
Luketa feels Penn State can continue to develop a recruiting pipeline in Canada, an area he believes remains largely untapped.
“There’s so much talent in Canada,” Luketa said. “I feel like at times it’s under-appreciated because of the stereotype that ‘Oh, he’s from Canada, maybe he’s not strong enough, he’s not good enough.'”
The junior went on to explain that he’s already gotten to work out with future Nittany Lions Meiga and Veilleux. He mentioned that those two were a part of a seven-vehicle carpool that came from Montreal to Ottawa for a training session.
“When I have the opportunity to host those guys when they come on to campus, it’s not really hard for me. I keep it real simple and keep it a hundred with them,” Luketa said. “I let them know that at Penn State you got one of the best institutions in the country, if not the world. You’ve got an opportunity to play football, get a world-class degree, and network with a lot of individuals who have been here before you and continue to network with people who come after you.
“I love being able to be a ‘Canadian ambassador’ for Penn State,” Luketa added.
Outside of his role as a built-in recruiter, there’s no doubt Luketa will earn increased snaps this season in Cam Brown and Jan Johnson’s abscence. After putting up 24 total tackles and even four pass deflections as a sophomore, the junior will now be relied upon as one of the leaders of the position group.
“Those guys are gone, now it’s my turn to step up,” Luketa said. “I have to essentially be the [old guy] in the room because now the younger guys are looking up to me. Whether it’s jumping on Zoom calls and making sure they’re on top of their stuff, or helping them out with the playbook.
“That’s stuff that I’ve taken upon myself, because as of now the onus is on me. I’m a leader in that room now,” Luketa continued.
Fellow junior Micah Parsons has earned plenty of the preseason hype and national awards among Penn State’s linebackers, but Luketa still feels the group as a whole is poised to be one of the best in the country. As he continues to develop as a leader for other Canadian players and on the defensive side as a whole, his expectations remain sky-high.
“You’ve seen the film. You’ve seen the individuals we have in the room. I see the type of work we put in day-in and day-out,” Luketa said. “Call me crazy, call me what you want, but I know the talent we have. I know how we work and how hungry we are, and it’s unmatched, it’s unparalleled. So it’s as simple as that.”
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Throughout the university’s “Commencement Celebration Weekend,” the Class of 2020 and their families can return to University Park for a full slate of events.
Auburn’s will be a full-stadium White Out, while Michigan’s will cover only the student section.
All good things must come to an end, right?
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