CHARLESTOWN — When Marion Lukes was deciding where he wanted to play college football there were two big factors — location and love.
Those elements led the Charlestown senior standout running back to announce his commitment to Eastern Kentucky University on Thursday.
“I visited there three or four times,” Lukes said of the school located in Richmond, Ky. “When I did, they had the staff all around me and showed me that they wanted me and showed me that they cared about me. It felt like a good fit for me. I felt the environment, I felt the love and everything like that.
“[Plus] I just wanted to stay local, I wanted to stay somewhat close by.”
After rushing for 1,074 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore, Lukes more than doubled those totals during a spectacular junior season in 2018.
Last year, the 5-foot-9, 187-pound Lukes led the entire state — and ranked 11th nationally, according to MaxPreps — in rushing yards per game (259.9). He also ranked fourth in Indiana, and 35th nationally, with 2,599 rushing yards (on only 209 carries). Lukes also finished seventh in the state in rushing touchdowns (29) on his way to being named first-team All-State in Class 3A by the Associated Press.
He began last season with a 247-yard, two-TD performance against Silver Creek (in the Pirates’ 32-14 triumph) and barely slowed down after that.
Lukes finished the season with eight games of 200, or more, rushing yards and five games of 300 or more. Last August at Clarksville, Lukes ran for a school-record 456 yards and five TDs in Charlestown’s 41-12 victory.
His breakout season led to interest from several colleges. Eastern Kentucky, a member of the FCS (formerly Division I-AA), was the second school to offer him a scholarship, Lukes said.
“They offered me when I was really unknown and nobody really knew about me,” he said. “They showed they had faith in me and truly wanted me.”
The Colonels are coming off a 7-4 campaign that included a 5-2 record in the Ohio Valley Conference and a season-ending four-game winning streak.
“Coming in they want me to put 20 pounds on and then they’re going to try me at running back and maybe throw me in the slot some and let me use my speed and try to get me in open space,” Lukes said.
Lukes first announced his commitment on social media.
“A day for the books I told you I got this momma,” he tweeted Thursday.
His post also included a brief statement thanking his trainer Chris Vaughn as well as Charlestown coach Jason Hawkins and the Pirates staff, and two pictures of him in an EKU uniform with his 20-month-old son Kingston. Lukes, who plans on majoring in business and marketing at Eastern, took his son with him to Richmond on Wednesday for the photos.
“The coaches, they loved him and Kingston loved them and I was like, ‘OK, this is the spot for me,’” he said.