Wingo having success in first year at North Alabama
Sat. October 13, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Barry Allen
Quarterback Luke Wingo picked up right where he left off at Hillcrest High with the North Alabama Lions. Wingo has 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns and 172 passing yards in his freshman season. (Photo by North Alabama)
FLORENCE | North Alabama football coach Bobby Wallace knows a little something about talented football players. Heading into the seventh week of the season, Wallace really likes what he sees in freshman quarterback Luke Wingo.
"Some players have what coaches call it," Wallace said. "It is hard to define, but Luke is definitely a winner. It does not take long to recognize that when you see him on the field."
The former Hillcrest High School standout is not sure what it is either, but whatever it is, he says it just comes naturally.
"I can’t really explain it," Wingo said. "It’s tough for me to see because I try and do what I am supposed to do. I am not sure what it is. I can’t explain it but I have been around it my whole life. It just comes pretty easy."
Wingo’s father, Rich, was a standout linebacker for coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant and was part of the University of Alabama’s famous goal-line stand in a 14-7 win over Penn State in the Sugar Bowl that clinched the 1978 national championship. He also spent six years with the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.
"It definitely helps to have a dad that has been around football his whole life, especially at the top level," Wingo said. "He knows how to work and how to prepare for games. The transition to college he definitely helped me a lot with that. I like to be calm and don’t change my attitude whenever I go into the game."
Wingo has played in all six games for the Lions (5-1). He has completed 7 of 12 passes for 172 yards and compiled a 162.07 passer rating. Wingo has 33 rushing attempts for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
"That is why we recruited him so hard," Wallace said. "He was the perfect fit for us. He can run the option in the spread offense and throw the football. He fits in so well. For him to have had this much success this early speaks volumes for him as a player."
Wingo began the season as the backup quarterback, but now he is sharing time with starter Chris Alexander. Wingo has accounted for 256 total yards and two touchdowns during North Alabama’s four-game winning streak.
"I think it’s just getting used to playing in big college games," Wingo said. "At first it was getting in front of bigger crowds. I think now I have settled in and I just go out there and play it like any other game. I think the last few games when he has put me in, I have been better prepared for it. Things have slowed down and it’s easier to go out there and play."
Wallace notices a difference in the huddle.
"Good things happen when he is in the game," Wallace said. "There is a spark. A few weeks ago, we were struggling in the second half and I made the change early in the third quarter. He came in and gave us a spark. He made a play off a bad snap late in the game to find an open receiver and move the chains. He just makes things happen."
The spark came in the 20-12 win over Delta State. The following week, Wingo ran 15 times for 47 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Shorter. He also completed 3 of 4 passes for 82 yards. Last week against Texas A&M-Kingsville, he piled up 100 total yards on just seven plays and averaged 9.4 yards on five rushing attempts.
"When he is on the field, everybody expects good things to happen’ Wallace said. "You can’t coach that. He is very blessed to have that quality. He is going to have a bright future."