Luke Harris graduated from Whiteland Community High School not knowing he would return so soon.
A three-sport athlete for the Warriors from 2006 to 2009, Harris recently was hired as his alma mater’s strength and conditioning coach.
“I’m back probably because I had such a positive experience (at Whiteland),” Harris, 24, said. “I had a great time going to school and growing up here. A lot of the teachers I had are still here, and a lot of the kids I hung around are back here working.”
A running back for the Warriors, Harris is the single-season rushing leader with 2,284 yards during his senior year of the 2008 season. Injuries kept him from reaching his potential at the next level as a running back at Indiana State University.
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A preseason injury to his left knee cost the 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back his entire sophomore season. Two years later, another preseason injury sidelined Harris for all of what would’ve been his senior campaign.
“When I got done playing in high school, I thought I was going to play college football and make a career out of that, like every high school kid thinks,” Harris said. “Thanks to injuries, I had to be done and find a way to reinvest my time.”
Having the presence of mind to begin channeling his efforts into making a living as a strength and conditioning coach proved a benefit.
Harris graduated from ISU in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. He then served a year as a strength and conditioning graduate assistant. He used the 2014-15 school year to earn his master’s degree from Indiana State while serving as its assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Working in some capacity with athletes from every one of the Sycamores’ men’s and women’s athletics programs proved excellent training.
“We had lots and lots of inquiries because it’s an attractive job,” Whiteland athletics director Ken Sears said. “We interviewed two other really great candidates, but Luke stood out with his absolute knowledge of everything from nutrition to speed and quickness and injury prevention. All the things we were looking for.
“The biggest things that stood out to me was the fact he’s not here just for the weight room, but here to make better athletes. Every sport, not just football.”
Where Harris said he thinks he has most noticeably altered Whiteland’s strength training is with enhanced focus in the areas of core development, injury prevention and insertion of plyometric exercises.
“I had to shift the idea that we’re not here to become the strongest people in the school,” Harris said. “We want to be the best athletes on the court. We do a lot of different exercises these kids have never done before, but it’s stuff that’s going to make them better athletes.
“The fact I’m back at the school I was an athlete at, I do take a lot of pride in, and I know what it takes to get to the next level. I’ve done it, and I’ve coached it.”
Harris initially thought he would work in strength training at a college. But he noticed many athletes between 18 and 23 years old already have established workout patterns and might not be as receptive to change. Athletes of high school ages offer far less resistance in this regard.
“Luke’s expertise and experience, along with our athletes, will definitely improve our program,” said Whiteland football coach Darrin Fisher, for whom Harris was a three-year letterman. “The bonus is his blood pumps royal and orange.
“I am thrilled to have him home.”
THE HARRIS FILE
Name: Luke Harris
Born: Georgetown, Kentucky
Family: Wife, Alexandra
High school: Whiteland (2009)
College: Indiana State University (2013)
Major: Exercise science
Favorite athlete: LaDainian Tomlinson
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts