- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 10 February 2016
- Written by ERIC KLENOFSKY | STAFF WRITER
Former MU men’s soccer captain and left back Derek Luke signed his first professional contract with FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League just over a week ago in Ohio.
“Realizing that I signed my first contract was a big moment in my life filled with excitement and a little bit of nervousness,” said Luke, a 22 year-old Bridgewater, N.J. native. “I was very excited of course because it has been a lifelong dream of mine to play professionally, but it also meant moving away from my family and friends back in Jersey. Although, it was an easy decision when the opportunity to play for FC.C. came knocking.”
Luke spent his youth career with the Player Development Academy before joining the Hawks in West Long Branch. The young aspiring professional hit the ground running his freshman year on the Great Lawn playing in all 18 games, starting 16 of them. He finished the season with three goals and one assist, none more notable than his right footed effort which found the top corner against Central Connecticut in the semi-finals of the Northeast Conference Tournament. The goal helped him earn a NEC All-Tournament Team selection in only his first year suited up for MU.
Sophomore year was a wash. After suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the second game of the non-conference slate, Luke was forced to take a medical redshirt. Any injury of such severity puts that much more emphasis on a productive offseason.
“Our programs most successful players have always had fantastic work ethic and commitment to improve,” said MU men’s head coach Robert McCourt, currently in his 12th season. “Derek is no different. He was always on the field working hard at his game before and after practice. His development as a player comes from his commitment both on and off the field.”
In his redshirt sophomore season, Luke bounced back—starting all 20 games for the Hawks on the left side.
In his redshirt junior season, Luke’s value to the MU soccer program shone as he gathered six assists, earning him a Second Team All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference selection. Although he was a threat offensively, Luke was just as pivotal defensively. The veteran defender successfully guided the Hawks back line to the lowest goals against average in the nation (0.48) and a MAAC Tournament Championship.
This past fall was Luke’s redshirt senior season and his last with the Hawks before graduating during Winter Commencement. As captain, Luke managed a goal and seven assists over the course of the year, one upping his previous seasons tally. Not only did he improve his production on the field, but he was also given the nod to the All-MAAC First Team for the first time in his career.
“From the time Derek showed up his freshman year, he was always willing to put in the time to work on his defensive and offensive shape and learn,” said MU associate head men’s soccer coach Hugh MacDonald, who specifically works with the defense. “You add that with his natural ability and his internal drive and you have yourself a pro. I’m just really happy a person like Derek has a chance to continue doing what he loves.”
In the five years that Luke spent with the Hawks, he steered the program to two NCAA Tournament berths, a NEC Regular Season and Conference Tournament Championship, two MAAC Regular Season Championships and one MAAC Tournament Championship.
Luke will look to continue his on field success as he transitions into the professional ranks. After attending combines with various Major League Soccer clubs, Luke made his way to a FC Cincinnati combine in Ohio where he found the right fit.
FC Cincinnati is now in the process of gearing up for its inaugural season in the USL and is holding preseason currently. The club has their first game ever on Saturday, Mar. 26 against the Charleston Battery at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m still getting adjusted to everyday life as a professional, but overall it’s just a lot of training and taking care of your body to make sure you are playing at the highest level possible every training session,” Luke said. “It’s more of an adjustment moving into a new city than anything else.”
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth Athletics