OXFORD, Miss.—To understand the optimism of the present, you first have to understand Matt Luke’s past:
**–He grew up in Gulfport, the second largest city in Mississippi. His father, Tommy, played defensive back at Ole Miss in the 60s. His brother, Tom, was a quarterback for the Rebels (1989-91). So he fell in love with Oxford, Miss., at an early age.
**–He was a standout player at Gulfport High School but scholarships to Ole Miss in 1995 were limited to just 13 (instead of 25) due to NCAA sanctions. Ole Miss was hammered by the NCAA with a two-year bowl ban and two years of restricted scholarships. The future of the program did not look bright. Still, Luke turned down scholarship offers from other schools to walk on at Ole Miss. He started 33 games at center and was named team captain in 1998.
**–In a playing and coaching career that now spans 24 years, he has spent 16 of them in Oxford. And he never made it a secret that his dream job was to someday be the head coach of the Rebels.
“You always dream of getting this job but you never dream that it would happen this way,” said Luke, as we sat in his office earlier this spring.