Behind the hulking 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame, well hidden beneath the long locks, is a Luke Wattenberg nobody knows — except those he encounters on the college football field.
On FOX College Football this week, University of Washington football coach Jimmy Lake felt compelled to reveal his starting center for all to see.
"He's like this really nice guy in the hallways and at lunch," Lake said. "On the practice field, I'm like an MMA referee. It's like, 'Luke, what are you doing? It's your teammate.' I'm trying to pull him back and pull him off guys."
There were laughs all around emanting from a FOX football panel that included former USC Trojans Matt Leinhart and Reggie Bush.
The question posed from Leinhart was who were a couple of Husky breakout players that not everyone normally would identify?
Lake was only so happy to oblige. He picked out sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon on defense, describing him as the most athletic defensive back that he's ever coached.
On offense, the coach settled on Wattenberg as someone to consider, not so much for his football emergence but for his low-key approach that might cause people to underestimate him.
To hear Lake tell it, Wattenberg almost comes off like the Charlie Watts of the Huskies, like the late Rolling Stones drummer who shared in his band's success but wanted no part of the limelight.
Or Luke resembles a big Ninja, a covert operator who silently goes about his business dismantling defensive lines. It doesn't hurt in this comparison that he's Japanese-American.
The sixth-year senior from Trabuco Canyon, California, a returning All-Pac-12 honorable-mention selection, recently acknowledged he has a somewhat unemotional approach to what can be a violent world. He chooses to pick his spots in displaying what's inside.
"I wouldn't say I'm a vocal leader," he said. "I try to lead by example. When I do speak, I try to make it count."
Yet Wattenberg allowed overall how he's come out of his shell some, how he's more willing to share himself with others, how he had ready proof to prove his point.
"When I first came here, I wouldn't talk at all," he said with a sly smile, looking out at a room full of media members. "Now I'm up here talking to you guys."
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