Over the course of his career at Penn State, Ottawa-raised linebacker Jesse Luketa has always been turning heads. His 61 tackles, sack and pick six as a senior in 2021 added to his totals of 151 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery, 6 pass deflections and a pick six. The numbers alone say a lot for Luketa, and are a major reason why he is where he is today, as an NFL Draft prospect, but really for Jesse Luketa it is the film which sticks out to most people. On film he has proved time after time that he has the ability to play nearly anywhere on the defensive side of the ball. He mainly starred as a linebacker with Penn State over the four years spent as a Nittany Lion but he progressively showed his worth as an edge rusher, giving coach James Franklin and company the ability to put him at edge, outside linebacker and middle linebacker. His film at all three positions on the field surprised a lot of NFL scouts, and created some buzz for Luketa which ended up getting him an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana.
These two opportunities, for one that grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada don’t come around that often. In fact, the only other player to get both of these opportunities from Ottawa is good friend of Luketa, Neville Gallimore who was drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. For Luketa though, these are all opportunities he talked about having, even with Gallimore. At the Reese’s Senior Bowl he told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “We spoke it into existence,” he continued, “I’m a firm believer of manifestation. We spoke about us being in this exact situation and for me to be here, although it may be surreal sometimes, it’s expected and I’m extremely grateful to be in this position I’m in right now.”
One thing that Luketa says every once in a while, and it really reflects the journey he has taken, as well as the journey he encourages a lot of young football players to take from Ottawa is, “nothing is ever too far unattainable.” The line is something that pushes him, and has pushed him to do more in any situation, and really speaks on the kind of success he has been having as of recently. At the Reese’s Senior Bowl, after a great senior season with Penn State, he dominated. He put on a show all week in practice and ended up coming up with two sacks, a forced fumble and a tackle for loss in the game itself, all against some of the top NFL Draft prospects. The week in Mobile really solidified his spot in the NFL Draft, and many were talking about his draft stock rising into the 2nd or 3rd round potentially. Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout himself and an analyst on NFL Network had said “He’s just a real versatile player. You talk to some coaches around the league right now and kind of where everything is going, we’ve been talking about positionless players forever. He’s a different style when it comes to that in terms of what he can do. But he can do more than one thing, with his ability to play off the ball, his ability to rush off the edge.”
After raising his stock at the Senior Bowl in February, it was time to do the same thing this past weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Over the years, this weekend in Indianapolis has made major impacts on a number of NFL players careers for the good and bad. For Luketa, right now it may not look perfect. He measured at 6-foot-2, 253 pounds and was able to jump 37.5 inches vertically as 9 feet, 6 inches far. Unfortunately Luketa, after running a 4.89 40 yard dash in his first attempt went on to injure what looked to be his hamstring in his second 40 yard dash attempt. Now, since Luketa isn’t guaranteed to be a first or second round pick like a lot of prospects out there, not performing in the majority of drills at the combine can hurt his spot in this year’s draft for a lot of teams.
If Luketa is healthy, he will get his second chance at an NFL Combine environment on March 24th at the Penn State Pro Day. He will then have the opportunity to run his 40 yard dash once again as well as compete in all of the drills he missed out on over the weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium after his injury.
Despite being hurt and missing a number of activities due to his injury at the combine, Jesse Luketa was still able to meet with a number of NFL teams, and similar to his time at the Senior Bowl in February, some of those talks raised his draft stock. One talk that a lot of fans may wonder about and would like to know how it went was Luketa’s meetings with the Dallas Cowboys. With childhood friend Neville Gallimore and Penn State roommate Micah Parsons on the defence in Dallas, it would make up of a great story if Luketa is added to the locker room at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Not to mention that they will be in need of a linebacker with Leighton Vander-Esch going into free agency. The Cowboys though are just one of 32 possible landing spots for Luketa, and no matter where he does land, he is bound to make an impact. At the combine he said that he sees himself as being “the most disruptive defender on the field” he explained, “I look at myself as a chess piece, schematically it is hard to game plan with a player who is versatile and can do so many things in that nature, I feel that’s the way the game’s trending, you want a player that’s able to do a multitude of things, so that’s what you’re getting in Jesse Luketa.”
Luketa isn’t the only Ottawa football player available in this year’s NFL Draft. He is alongside edge rusher Luiji Vilain, defensive backs Katley Joseph and Patrice Rene, and offensive linemen Liam Dobson and Chris Fournier. Next year there will be more, the year after there will be even more, and the growth of talent in Ottawa will just continue to rise, this is just the beginning of the takeover.