11-year-old wide receiver nicknamed “Beast Mode” signs with UK football

11-year-old Luke Klausing signs his papers to join UK’s football team at Kroger Field on August 1, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chris Leach

Chris Leach

Every day, an alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and it’s time for 11-year-old Luke Klausing to wake up.

Most of Luke’s friends are fast asleep dreaming about playing football or other fun activities, but Luke has not slept past 6 a.m. since the fifth day of his life.

“Whether it’s Labor Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, this summer, he still has to get up and do those treatments,” Luke’s father Joey Klausing said.

The treatment Luke is receiving is for his cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes lung infections, which can make it difficult to breathe. Luke has had CF since early May of 2007, just five days after he was born. 

Once that 6 a.m. alarm rings, Luke gets up to begin his morning treatments, which typically take about an hour and a half. After that, he takes two nasal sprays, uses an inhaler and takes 10 pills.

Then Luke is ready for the day and heads off to school with his friends, who did not wake up at 6 a.m. When he comes home at 4 p.m. Luke begins another round of treatment, which usually lasts about an hour. 

At 6:30 p.m., Luke heads to football practice, where he is a talented wide receiver for St. Anges Catholic School in Louisville, Kentucky. When football practice is over at 8:30 p.m., Luke returns home for a shower, but before he can call it a day, he has to do one last round of treatment.

Luke has repeated that treatment process every single day since he was diagnosed with CF at five days old.

“That’s why we’re so devoted to the cure, we want to beat this thing so Luke and other kids don’t have to deal with this throughout the rest of their lives,” Joey said.

However, the first of August this year looked a little different for Luke. After his morning treatment, instead of getting ready for school or football practice, Luke spent some time with his new teammates, who are much taller than his teammates at St. Anges. 

Luke was on UK’s campus on Wednesday to sign his letter of intent to UK, where he will join the football team as a wide receiver. Luke will join a talented receiving core that includes Dorian Baker, Tavin Richardson and Lynn Bowden.

“Being a part – like seeing the games and practices,” Luke said of what he looks forward to the most after signing with UK.

Luke is a four-foot-seven-inch prospect whose nickname is “Beast Mode.” Luke has already guaranteed a win over Tennessee and is excited to beat Florida.

Luke already comes to campus with a collection of skills that coaches can’t wait to see in action.

“His 4.02 40 (yard dash) will help him separate from defensive backs such as Lonnie (Johnson Jr.), and we look for him to help us immediately,” said UK football Director of Player Development Freddie Maggard.

Maggard said that he expects Luke to compete for a starting position and projects him as a three-year player before he goes on to the NFL.

“Defenses most likely will have to triple team Luke, and that will leave C.J. (Conrad) with one-on-one opportunities,” Maggard said.

After the introductory press conference, Luke got the chance to go in Kroger Field and show off his skills with UK players Conrad, Johnson Jr., George Asafo-Adjei, Zach Johnson and Walker Wood. Luke caught a touchdown pass from Conrad, practiced throwing a football, received his No. 18 jersey and kicked some field goals with his siblings. 

On Luke’s touchdown catch, Luke opened up some separation from Johnson Jr. at the one-yard line before diving across the goal line.

He received high-fives from all the players in the east end zone of Kroger Field while his parents watched on, grinning just like Luke was.

“I don’t get goose bumps too much anymore, I got them today,” Joey said. “Just to see these guys, all-Americans and future NFL players here just talking to an 11-year-old kid, 72-pound little pipsqueak here and embracing him and the whole staff and Freddie and all the team just kind of taking him in, it’s heartwarming.”

As a member of the UK football team, Luke will be able to attend practices, meetings, dinners and games just like the rest of his teammates. He will be with the Cats at the start of their fall camp, which is set to begin next week. 

They will also likely travel around with the team to their road games as the Klausing family has done in the past. Traveling is one of the activities the family enjoys doing together, which is usually centered around UK.

“It’s like what we do as a family to kind of – not escape but take a break from the disease and so Kentucky is our life I think,” Luke’s mother Jessica Klausing said.

The football team is also excited to have Luke and his family follow around the team for the entire season. Players on the team can experience some long, tiring days themselves between class, practice, film reviews, tutoring and more, and by the time they get home they usually do not have much energy left to do homework.

However, Conrad, who called himself a wimp compared to Luke’s daily schedule, recognizes that what Luke goes through is tougher than what he and his teammates experience on the field.

“Just to hear what he does on a daily basis, I’m not reiterating myself but it’s crazy,” Conrad said. “The fact that he has such a positive attitude, it’s good to have a guy like that come and be apart of our team this year because seriously, he’s going to bring the energy up.”

To keep the energy up, Luke will have to continue doing treatment three times a day and take about 40 medications on top of the treatments. Luke’s family started a charity in Louisville in hopes of curing the disease, and it has raised over $1 million in CF research since Luke’s diagnosis.

When Luke goes home after his signing day at UK, he will have to do his evening treatment before he can go to bed, but the next day’s 6 a.m. alarm will be slightly different, as he will wake up as a member of the Kentucky Wildcat football team.

“We use a big word in our house called selfless, and these guys have been selfless,” Joey. “They’re not putting themselves ahead of other people, they’re just great people.”