By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
Payton Lusk never thought he would end up playing college football. But here he is, headed for Missouri State to play on the gridiron after he graduates from Owasso High School this spring.
The hardwood was where Lusk’s dreams were. Then he got hurt and things changed.
“I’ve played basketball my whole life,” Lusk said. “That’s really the sport that I’ve always played. I didn’t start playing football until my junior year. Basketball was always my sport, then I was struck with that injury. That changed everything and made me give football a try.”
After playing his first gridiron campaign last year, Lusk incurred a back injury in the hoops opener at Bartlesville. He gave up basketball from that point.
“That was probably the hardest thing that I’ve done because since preschool, all I’ve ever played was basketball,” he said.
But throughout his whole life, people could see a football player in him.
“I never believed them until I got that injury and then after lots of talk, I decided to give it a try and it paid off,” Lusk said.
Lusk, a 6’3″ wide receiver, made his share of touchdowns to help the Rams win their second Class 6AI state championship in three seasons in December.
But the journey to recovery one year earlier was a long process, he said.
“Going through doctors, x-rays and physical therapy and having to sit out, just that mental block you get when you have to sit out was the biggest part for me,” Lusk said. “It was the worst thing ever because athletics is what makes me happy and I had to stop for awhile. So, with the coaches and my dad, I prayed about it and everything seemed to work out. That’s how I persevered.”
To keep his back strong and prevent re-injury, Lusk has been following a routine. Being a part of the track team also helps.
“While I was in recovery, I was doing very light workouts to maintain strength and balance,” he said. “Now that I’m back running track, I’m trying to get my speed back. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.”
Once he got started in football, it didn’t take Lusk long to get the attention of college programs. Ultimately, he chose Missouri State.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I had a lot of schools recruit me and a lot of big schools I went on to visit. The big thing for me, I just wanted to go to a big school. Then I went to Missouri State and it just felt like home. They have a good fan base, they got a brand new coaching staff, the best coach in Bobby Petrino, so Missouri State was a good fit.”
Petrino has had coaching success in the past at Louisville and Arkansas.
Lusk chose Missouri State over Arkansas Tech, Southwestern Oklahoma State, Howard University, Oklahoma Baptist and others.
“The main goal for me at Missouri State is to come out with a degree,” Lusk said. “I’m hoping with the coaching staff and the strength coach, we can get on with making the program thrive. Then maybe I can enter the NFL draft. But, if not, I just want to make sure I have my degree. My dad, Alton Lusk, (now principal at the Owasso Eighth Grade Center and played collegiately at Central Oklahoma) went to the NFL draft. He got drafted by the Giants. It would be nice to follow in his shoes.”
As he prepares for the college level, Lusk has a brief high school career that proved incredible.
“It was unbelievable now that I think about it,” Lusk said. “It was amazing. The difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is like night and day. During the summer, we stayed up here for hours putting in extra work. You could just tell everybody on the team wanted it. Whenever we went to the 7-on-7 camp down in Arkansas, that’s when I knew we were special and that we were going to do big things because we completely dominated down there. That’s when we found out that Cole Dugger was the best quarterback to come out of Owasso.”
Lusk thanked all the coaches on the Owasso staff and said, “Go Rams!”