PARKERSBURG - If asked, former Parkersburg Catholic High School and Fairmont State University football standout Luke Black would say he's been blessed when it comes to what he's been able to accomplish on the gridiron.
Now 26, Black is thoroughly enjoying his first season as a defensive end for the 11-1 Cleveland Gladiators in the Arena Football League. Not only is the team having great success while trying to secure homefield advantage for the playoffs, but Black is seventh on the Gladiators in tackles and is second on the squad in both sacks and tackles for loss with 5.5 each.
"It's great. Our defense is ranked second in the league in sacks and it's great to be a part of that," said Black, who noted he's learned a lot from former four-year Ohio State letterman Tim Cheatwood, Cleveland's first-year defensive line coach.
Photo courtesy of John Saraya
Luke Black (55), a defensive end for the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League, has played a key role in helping the team to a current 11-1 record. Black was a former standout football player for both Parkersburg Catholic High School and Fairmont State University.
"He has so much knowledge and he's good to get behind and rally with and is a great motivator and a talker. He's been a great position coach."
From the time he moved on from playing Class A football with the Crusaders of then head coach Danny Tennant to his stellar prowess in Division II ball at FSU, Black has been busy trying to find his way to the dream all football players have - making it in the National Football League.
He's had a pair of stints in NFL rookie minicamps with both the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in early 2012 before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals that August.
"I went through the OTA and through the first preseason game," Black noted of his Bengals experience before he was cut and eventually ended up playing in the United Football League with the Omaha Nighthawks.
Last year, Black played for the now defunct Utah Blaze in the AFL before being acquired via a special draft by the Gladiators.
"It just so happened Cleveland picked me up and that was an amazing, amazing thing being close to home," added Black, who also was an assistant coach last fall for the Marietta College Pioneers.
"I love Arena Football, but we are all looking to get that promotion in this business and that's playing for a bigger team (in the NFL). It's hard to tell when your chance will come, but I feel that it will."
Going from college to his brief trials in the NFL and then to the world of the Arena Football League has been a challenging task for the ex-Crusader.
"Going to arena was just drastic," he admitted. "I struggled to learn the rules, learn the angles and the speed. It's a completely different game learning to get to the quarterback in 3.5 seconds."
One interesting facet of being in the AFL for Black is the living arrangements, which he said basically amounted to team housing in the same complex.
"It builds that relationship and we all got that college lifestyle, still messing with people, having fun, playing video games, getting workouts in and keeping everyone motivated. It's good stuff," said the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder.
"If all else fails and I don't make an NFL team, I've got to travel to almost every state in the past two years, been to ever major city and met numerous coaches and friends I'll have for life."
Of course, the current goal right now is to stay healthy, win an AFL title and then hope he catches his big break and realizes the dream of making the final cut for an NFL roster.
"I'm in a good situation and I feel very, very content with where I am," Black stated. "As long as you are still learning there is an opportunity to play. I still don't think I've peaked yet.
"I'm adding something new to my game and as long as I can keep doing that and my body can keep moving for me I'm going to be out there and keep playing."