EL PASO, Texas - The late Luke Laufenberg should be playing in the New Mexico Bowl this weekend as a member of the UTEP Miners.
And while Luke won't physically be on the field this Saturday, rest assured the Miners will try to channel Luke's fighting spirit as they look to pull off the upset against Fresno State.
Luke's father and former NFL QB Babe Laufenberg spoke to the Miners earlier this week as the made final bowl preparations, and gave some words of encouragement before departing for Albuquerque.
“I told them "Hey, I was proud of them and they should be proud of themselves," said Babe, who now works as a radio broadcaster for the Dallas Cowboys. "And I think the hardest thing to do is to turn around a program. I think once you get it rolling, it’s easier to maintain it. But the hardest thing is to convince kids, both the ones that are coming here and the ones that are on your team, is that hey you can do this."
Laufenberg even channeled a former Cowboys coach in his address.
"Bill Parcells used to always say 'confidence is born of demonstrated ability.' And they should be confident, because they’ve demonstrated the ability to win games.”
Luke Laufenberg's story is one that is well-known around the Miners' program. His battle back from leukemia in the spring of 2019 to practice with the team was inspirational to teammates.
Luke died following a second diagnosis in August of 2019, without ever playing a snap.
But his name still takes the field each Saturday on the back of wide receiver Justin Garrett and on the decal of Head Coach Dana Dimel.
Babe Laufenberg has stayed connected to his son's team since Luke's passing. In addition to speaking with the team prior to the bowl game, he donated a fuel nutrition bar in Luke's honor that will help players recover and strengthen in the workout room for years to come.
“I do want those kids to look in, and obviously we’re not talking about a physical fist fight, but there’s gotta be a little fight in you," says Babe about the goal of the fuel station.
The Miners have emblemed that fight in their 2021 season, reaching their first bowl game since 2014.
"You can see it this year, there were games in the past where I’ve watched where something bad happened and it would’ve turned on them and they would’ve gone in the tank. And this year you really saw that fight if you will, come back, win games, and I think next years gonna be only better.”