Across the country, Adam and Ryan Luehrman are watching former high school teammates dive into the last season of their college football careers.
In Athens, the identical twin brothers are about to see theirs finally take full flight.
The Luehrman twins, fourth-year junior tight ends, are poised to be at the top of the depth chart for the Bobcats in 2019. Five years ago, the pair — along with Northwestern’s Trae Williams and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow among a host of others — played on the most productive offense in Ohio high school history and came within one play of winning a state championship.
Since that night in Ohio Stadium in 2014, Williams has carved out playing time as a cornerback with the Wildcats. Burrow caught the eye of Buckeye fans as a backup, then took the plunge and transferred to LSU last summer. Burrow became the starter, and returns this fall as the established QB with the Tigers.
Meanwhile, the Luehrmans have waited, bided their time and ate — a lot. Both Ryan and Adam are now 50 to 60 pounds heavier than when they were 6-4 wideouts catching deep balls from Burrow.
And they’re itching to show they can still play.
“I cannot repeat enough how excited I am for this season to get going,” Adam Luehrman said. “But you got to go through all this first, and take it seriously, to get to that point.”
The Luehrman brothers, who just turned 23, have always been serious about their development at Ohio. The pair was asked, and accepted, gray-shirt seasons in 2015. That was followed by redshirt campaigns in 2016.
Both were little more than bit players in 2017, but then saw substantial action as backup and/or auxiliary tight ends in 2018. In four seasons of being with the Bobcats, the duo has a combined three catches for 16 yards and one touchdown.
In their final high school game, the Luehrmans combined for 14 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns.
But Ryan Luehrman said the numbers aren’t what’s important. Just playing for the Bobcats is a dream come true for him and his brother. And maintaining the recent Ohio lineage of tough, no-nonsense tight ends is equally as important. That lesson was driven home during those years of gray and redshirts by former OU players Troy Mangen, Mason Morgan and Connor Brown.
“Don’t complain about anything. This is the best sport in the world,” Ryan Luehrman said. “Don’t go out there and take it for granted.
“It’s a great honor to play for this football team. This is my favorite team,” he added. “I’m going to go out there every day at 100 percent.”
It’s that attitude that has helped the brothers persevere through a long process of changing their bodies to play the tight end position at the FBS level. In short, the pair had to get thicker and stronger all the while keeping intact their athletic ability that set them apart in the first place.
Both were around 190 pounds after their high school careers, where both played three sports. Now, both are just north of 250 pounds. They’re more effective blockers, and can still high-point the football as well as most on the roster.
“You could make a movie about the Luehrmans,” said Ohio tight ends coach Brian Haines.
“They come here and they grayshirt, then they redshirt. That can be a hard, long process for a lot of guys,” he continued. “They bought in.
“They’ve worked so hard for that. They had the frames and the body types to do it, and Dak (Notestine) does an awesome job, but it was still on them to get it done. They’ve done it.”
Lots of milk. Lots of sandwiches. Countless hours in workouts. And through it all, the Luehrmans have faced a steady reminder of who they used to play with.
If the twins are out in Athens, it’s like someone is going to stop and ask them about Joe Burrow. They say they’ve resisted the urge, so far, to embellish their tales of the former Athens HS quarterback. Media requests, from out of state, have ticked up since Burrow transferred to Baton Rouge.
“It’s at least once a week,” Ryan Luehrman said. “It’s ‘Hey, those are the twins that balled with Joe!’ We get interview requests sometimes. It’s not like we have minute-specific details about him, but they still want to know.”
So far, the big plays have been few for the tight ends. Adam currently has the edge in bragging rights — he caught an eight-yard touchdown last season at Western Michigan while Ryan was at home with a shoulder injury.
“We ran that play a million times, it was never open for me,” Ryan said, with Adam chuckling in the background. “He runs it one time and he’s wide open for the touchdown.”
Both will get many more chances in 2019. Ohio hasn’t declared one or the other the starter, yet, but both will play. And if the Bobcats use a lot of two tight end personnel sets, both will be on the field at the same time for a substantial number of reps.
In practice, they’re the first up in position drills. They instruct a three-player freshman crop of tight ends about how things are done. They lead footwork and catching drills while Haines is supervising other special teams units.
“We just don’t want to be wasting any time,” Adam Luehrman explained. “The guys before us all took us in and showed us what it takes. We just want to continue that so we have a steady line of tight ends coming up.”
The Luehrmans are paying it forward, and have paid their dues. Now it’s time to show they still got it, or more accurately never lost it. If Ohio’s offense is to resemble the 2017 and ’18 units this fall, they’ll both have to play well.
“It’s a responsibility,” Ryan Luehrman said. “We’ve wanted this. We’ve worked for this. We have people counting on us.
“We’ve got to out and
take every day like it’s not for granted.”