Lippincott’ tribute to his mother
September 25, 2007
RENO – For each home game, Nevada running back Luke Lippincott leaves a ticket at the will-call window for his mom, Linda, even though he knows she won’t ever use it.
Call it a symbolic gesture. Call it a son’s way of remembering his mother, who lost her lengthy battle with brain cancer last spring.
“I still feel like I’m playing for her,” Lippincott said last week. “It was big for me for her to be able to watch me play a couple of times (last year), and for me to prove myself to her.”
“It’s an emotional thing (for Luke),” said Dr. Brian Lippincott, Luke’s father and a psychologist. “He feels if he leaves a ticket, she’s there watching from above.”
Luke was cheated by his mom’s death. His time with her was far too short, but there isn’t a day that goes by that she’s not in his thoughts.
Though Linda was officially diagnosed with cancer when Luke had just started high school, her health issues manifested themselves two years previous, and only quick reaction by Luke saved his mom and other family members from tragedy.
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Linda, while driving to a sporting event in the Salinas area, suffered a seizure. Luke, who was 13 at the time, reached down from the passenger seat and pressed the brake in an attempt to stop the car before it went through a busy intersection. The car eventually landed on its side in a big lettuce field.
The elder Lippincott admitted he was a little alarmed when he got home that night and nobody was home. He eventually found out that the family was at the hospital.
“We were with Kaiser at the time,” Brian Lippincott said. “They ran some tests, but didn’t find anything. It was a traumatic event for Luke.”
Shortly after the diagnosis two years later, Linda moved back east to Pennsylvania where her four sisters, all nurses, and parents took care of her.
“She was able to come back here for one or two games when Luke was a senior,” Brian Lippincott said.
She missed a truly sensational career. Luke rushed for more than 2,200 yards in his career and scored 30 TDs. He was a second-team all-state selection his senior year.
Despite the loss of his mom, he still has his No. 1 fan. Brian Lippincott attends most of Nevada’s games, home or away.
“My dad loves football,” Luke Lippincott said. “He loves to see me play. He played football in high school and at Saint Mary’s College. I thought I was going to go there until they closed the program down. I play a lot for him. I want to make him proud.
“I know he gives up a lot to come up here and see me. He’ll stop anything to come here and be with me even if it doesn’t have to do with football.”
The elder Lippincott, who has his own practice and also teaches at Cal-State Monterey Bay and John F. Kennedy University in Campbell, Calif., spent a couple of weeks this past summer observing workouts.
Lippincott, a two-way star at Palma High School in Salinas, Calif, actually was a safety his first season at Nevada. He actually traveled as a true freshman, though he never played a snap and ended up redshirting.
“He was always recruited to play defense,” said Jim Mastro, Nevada’s recruiting coordinator and running backs coach. “Coach Ault likes big, strong safeties. He was 215 pounds and ran a 4.5.
“He (Luke) wanted to be a defensive player,” Mastro said. “He thought that was his best chance (to play).”
That didn’t stop Lippincott from wishing for a shot at running back, though.
“I would always joke with coach Mastro and coach Ault, and coach Mastro would ask me about coming over to the good side of the ball,” Lippincott said. “I’d tell them to let me play both ways. After I got hurt, coach Mastro lobbied hard to get me on offense.”
The injury Lippincott referred to was during fall camp prior to the 2005 season. He suffered a season-ending knee injury when he came down wrong after going up for an interception, and then wide receiver Mike McCoy landed on him, causing his knee to go in the opposite direction.
“It wasn’t easy to sit out,” Lippincott said. “I’d never been seriously hurt before.”
Lippincott backed up Robert Hubbard at running back during the 2006 season, and made some big contributions. He finished with 456 yards and nine scores, the latter stat tying him with McCoy for tops on the team. He had back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Utah State (144 yards) and Louisiana Tech (122).
Not a bad year, but Lippincott expected more out of himself. He spent the off-season lifting weights and running hills. In short, he did whatever would make him quicker and stronger. He made numerous jaunts to the “N” carved on the mountain near the campus.
“There is an amazing difference between last year and this year,” Mastro said. “No one is going to out-work him. He’s never satisfied, and that why he continues to get better.
“He’s a student of the game. He understands what he’s seeing out there.”
After a sub-par game against Nebraska in the opener, Lippincott has notched back-to-back 100-yard efforts, and currently leads Nevada in rushing with 262 yards and two scores (87.3 per game).
“I was a little too fast (against Nebraska),” Lippincott said. “I wasn’t giving my blockers time. I have to trust them to do their job. One of the hardest things to do is slow down. When you get the ball you want to go as fast as you can.”
Despite rushing for 127 yards, Lippincott felt he could have scored five touchdowns in the win over Nicholls State if he had run over defenders or by making a move. That’s vintage Lippincott, never satisfied. Once you’re satisfied, however, your drive to get better goes away, and Lippincott is all about getting better.
His work ethic has earned him the respect of not only his teammates, but the coaching staff, too. He is exactly the type of back head coach Chris Ault loves – reliable, tough and the ability to run downhill.
“He’s becoming a Nevada back,” Ault told reporters after the 52-17 win over Nicholls State. “He knows what I mean. He practices like he plays (full speed). I’m very happy with how he’s played thus far.”
Lippincott, though being pushed hard by Brandon Fragger and Vai Taua, is the featured back. It’s pressure to be sure, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel like I have proven myself to do the job,” Lippincott said. “Teammates trust that I can do the job. I want to prove to the coaches that I can be a guy to carry 25 or 30 times a game and be good.”
Raw talent and hard work is a big reason for Lippincott’s success. There is one more thing that has helped him be a better back – visualization.
It’s something that Brian Lippincott started his son on when he was 12 and playing Little League baseball.
“He was afraid of the ball,” Brian Lippincott said. “I hypnotized him and told him to think about hitting the ball and not thinking about the ball hitting him. He responded to it. He was able to use his mind, and it grew from there.”
Lippincott meditates twice a week usually to the beat of some football-type music.
“I close my eyes and imagine myself getting the ball and getting through the hole; getting to break the tackle or making the tackler miss,” he said. “I’m watching Adrian Peterson, and I imagine myself trying those moves. I’m starting to see it carry over onto the field.”
Mastro said Lippincott isn’t the first to use the visualization technique.
“He is a visual learner,” Mastro said. “Everybody is different. He needs to see it. You can tell him something, but until he sees it…”
Case in point. Lippincott’s steps were off one day. By watching Fragger the next day at practice, he was able to get his steps back.
• Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
UNLV (2-2) AT NEVADA (1-2)
When: Saturday, 1:05 p.m.
Where: Mackay Stadium
TV: Streaming video available at http://www.nevadawolfpack.com for $8.95
Radio: 630 AM, pregame starts at noon
Last year: Nevada 31, UNLV 3
THE LIPPINCOTT FILE
Position: Running back
High school: Palma/Salinas, Calif.