Players, Coaches React to the Death of UTEP Tight End Luke Laufenberg
Dana Dimel had to do something this morning that he's never had to experience in his 37 years of coaching—break the news to his players and coaches that one of their own, tight end signee Luke Laufenberg, died today following his battle with a rare form of leukemia.
Luke was just 21-years-old.
"[Luke] loved playing for UTEP," Dimel said. "It was the biggest part of his life, it was a blessing and it was on his bucket list. When he came back, we thought he shaken cancer and he was moving in the right direction. Three days before, I got a video from Babe (Laufenberg, Luke's dad and former Cowboys quarterback) and he was out running routes. Three days later we found out it was terminal.
"He still visited with coach [Jake] Waters, seeing how practice was going," Dimel continued. "That's just the kind of guy he was. Just a wonderful, wonderful individual and he can't be forgotten."
Dimel went on to say that the team will reconvene and plan for a way to honor Luke's life on their home game against Houston Baptist next Saturday, Aug. 31.
Up until last Friday, Luke continued to reach out to tight ends coach Jake Waters for film breakdowns and practice updates.
"I was talking with him, having all he was going through, and his first question was 'how's the team doing? How's the tight ends and fullbacks doing? Can I get some film to watch on my phone to watch of the guys and see how they're doing?' Followed us through Ruidoso, followed us through everything and his first thought was 'how are my brothers doing?' Waters said. "That tells you all you need to know about Luke Laufenberg."
It was a tranquil feeling among the practice field today, with players devastated following the loss of one of their own.
"With a work ethic like that, what he's been through and the determination, that's incredible in itself," fullback Forest Mckee said today about Luke. "He always wanted to learn, he was always at the house asking questions: 'What can I do better? What can I do to get on the field.' He wanted to make an impact, he wanted to do for this team and that's tough to do especially if you're someone that has been through everything he went through.
"He was younger than me and I looked up to him. Incredible person, incredible teammate and my heart goes out to his family." - UTEP fullback Forest Mckee
"We loved that dude," said kicker Brady Viles. "He's family. You hear about this... I can't even wrap my head around it. He was so young."
Laufenberg was originally diagnosed with leukemia in 2017 at the JUCO level (Mesa Community College). He was cancer-free in the summer of 2018. When the leukemia reappeared this spring, Laufenberg left the UTEP football team to seek treatment.