KEARNEY — Kearney High’s Luke McNitt always wanted to be a wide receiver. It took some convincing from the coaching staff to make the switch to quarterback after his freshman year. Reluctantly, McNitt agreed.
“They talked about how being a receiver I’d touch the ball 5 to 10 times per game, but if I was quarterback I’d touch it every play,” McNitt said. “I made the switch, and I guess the position kind of grew on me.”
McNitt grew, too, and with high expectations heading into his senior year, the 6-2, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback delivered. He combined for over 2,000 yards passing and rushing, led the Bearcats to an 8-2 record, and was named the Kearney Hub’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“He’s big, fast, athletic and extremely intelligent,” KHS coach Brandon Cool said. “We saw his abilities, and convincing him (to play quarterback) was a great move for him and our football program.”
McNitt’s first start under center came in his very first season learning the position, as an injury moved him into the starting role for the first round of the Class A state playoffs against Creighton Prep as a sophomore.
“That was the most nerve-racking week of my life,” McNitt said. “But it was good experience and I knew from then on what I had to do to compete at that level.”
His first start was a loss, but McNitt would go on to post 15 wins over his final two seasons. His 1,219 passing yards this year was slightly down from his junior season, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio (16-4) was much improved. He also racked up 928 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the year.
His physical attributes were only matched by his smarts, leading an up-tempo offense that kept opposing defenses on their heels.
“Anytime you can have a guy command the offense like he does you’re going to be in prime position to win a lot of football games,” Cool said.
McNitt’s size and abilities on the field, in addition to the fact that he wore No. 15, drew plenty of comparisons to a certain NFL player.
“I heard Tim Tebow’s name all the time,” McNitt said with a laugh. “I don’t think there was ever a time where I went through the line of shaking hands without someone saying ‘Hey Tebow.’ It’s a compliment to me. He’s a great player and a great guy.”
McNitt continually improved as not only a player, but as a leader on the team.
“He elevated the expectations for himself and his teammates,” Cool said. “He really grew as a leader for our program. He earned a lot of respect from his teammates and opponents.”
Prior to his senior year, McNitt met with Cool to talk about how he could help make everyone around him better. He also met with his fellow seniors to set some lofty goals, most of which were met.
The Bearcats’ season was again ended in the first round of playoffs, this time by Omaha Central. Although disappointed, McNitt is able to look back on the season as a whole and call it a successful one.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” McNitt said. “The feeling you get on Friday nights… there’s nothing like stepping onto the field and competing with all your friends.”
McNitt looks to continue playing football at the collegiate level, drawing interest at both the Division I and Division II levels. His current Top 5, in no particular order, are Nebraska, Nebraska-Kearney, Northwest Missouri State, South Dakota and South Dakota State. He would more than likely be playing along the lines of quarterback or tight end.
First, he’ll focus on improving on his bronze-medal performance in the shot put at the Nebraska State Track and Field Championships this spring.