After games and practices, junior Luke Siwula removes his pads just like everyone else — strap by strap, shell by shell. The only difference is in the shoulder pads that the tailback sheds from his body are that they are adorned with a giant bull’s-eye for the first time in his career.
People notice him now. Luke Siwula is no longer Cornell’s secret weapon, a title that was stripped from him after a 165-yard rushing performance in a 34-20 loss to Colgate last season. Siwula joined Ed Marinaro ’72 in becoming the only Cornell players to rush for over 100 yards in each of his first three collegiate starts.
And while most backs mentioned in the same sentence as the carnelian legend would lose focus and become complacent with their accomplishments, Siwula quietly slaves away inside the Friedman Center, lifting weights as if he still has a job to win.
“I look at it as if I still have to prove myself,” Siwula said. “I know that I have to work even harder to elevate the team to the next level.”
Determined to reach that goal, Siwula looks to improve on a season in which he averaged 108.6 yards per game, ranking third in the Ivy League and 21st in the nation. After six 100-yard rushing games and 10 touchdowns, Siwula was rewarded for his efforts by being named to the All-Ivy first team. All accomplishments, Siwula attests, are dividends of hard work that has paid off.
“It’s all about work ethic,” Siwula said. “I’m a local guy, so during the off-season, I’m up here every day doing the extreme running and lifting. It’s hard to do it on your own, without that competition and drive.”
With another off-season of added muscle on his frame, Siwula prepares to run the ball as hard as possible for as long as he possibly can. According to his coaches, games take on a whole new dimension when No. 25 touches the ball.
“The game changes when he’s in there,” said head coach Jim Knowles ’87. “He fits into small spaces and makes a lot of plays when there isn’t much there. He just seems to find seams that other guys can’t see.”
With all the success Siwula’s had over the course of a season, coaches praise his toughness and credit him with fully understanding the offense — something that comes easily to the disciplined Industrial Labor and Relations major. Siwula’s 3.51 grade point average earned him the honor being named to ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-District team last season.
“Luke’s a tough guy,” said offensive coordinator Clayton Carlin. “He works hard. How can you not like anything about him?”
While most backs would be featured in only the run game, Siwula proves to be multi-dimensional as he played on special teams last season, making two tackles and recovering a fumble. A gifted athlete, Siwula played five sports in high school and was a two-time all-league selection in lacrosse.
The 6-0, 200-pound bruiser looks to use his exceptional athletic ability to an even greater extent this season, as his role on offense expands as well. Siwula will lend his services in pass protection as sophomore Nathan Ford takes the reins of Knowles’ new run-first, pass-second offense.
“Pass protection is something I’ve worked hard to improve on in my first three years here,” Siwula said. “I’m at a point right now where I’m confident that I can take on any defensive lineman.”