Courtesy Indiana University Luke Timian, a redshirt-junior wide receiver and former walk-on, has earned a scholarship with the Hoosiers and now has become an integral part of the offense.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017 1:00 am
IU walk-on proving he definitely belongs
BEN PORTNOY | For The Journal Gazette
BLOOMINGTON – When head coach Tom Allen asked several of his players to sing “Indiana, Our Indiana” at a team meeting a few weeks ago, it appeared as though he was just giving them a hard time.
Redshirt-junior wide receiver Luke Timian, one of the chosen players, individually stood in front of a meeting room in the underbelly of Memorial Stadium and led his teammates in the first verse: “Indiana, our Indiana, Indiana we're all for you. We will fight for the cream and crimson, ...” But the singing abruptly ended as roars of excitement engulfed the room. The projector had flashed the words “Luke just earned a scholarship!” onto the wall behind Timian.
For Timian, this moment was the culmination of years worth of work, determination and a desire to prove that he belonged.
“It was nice to just see my hard work be rewarded because I had put so much work in,” Timian said. “And to earning a scholarship for my family, it's definitely huge on that aspect.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound receiver's scholarship journey began as a high school standout at Southlake Carroll High School, in Southlake, Texas, where Timian was an all-state honoree and a three-year letter winner in football and track and field for the Dragons.
“First of all, Luke Timian is one of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around,” Southlake Carroll head football coach Hal Wasson said. “His attention to detail, his creativity and route running was second to none.”
Wasson recalled Timian's commitment to his teammates was so devout he once skipped a family vacation to Hawaii to ensure he wouldn't miss a summer workout.
“I know I couldn't have turned down a Hawaiian trip,” Wasson quipped.
Once his prep career with the Dragons came to a close, Timian struggled to find a scholarship. Wasson said he held offers from smaller schools, but Timian was confident in his ability to play at the FBS level. Ultimately, Timian decided to walk on at Oklahoma State.
“We all felt strongly that he was a Division I receiver,” Wasson said. “Should have received a scholarship offer out of high school, but for whatever reason they didn't.”
Early in his freshman year with the Cowboys, Timian felt he was playing well and had positioned himself for some snaps. However, he ended up redshirting and it marked the beginning of the end for Timian in Stillwater.
“I kind of lost my focus towards football,” Timian said of his mindset when redshirting. “And I really just needed a fresh start.”
At the end of his first season at Oklahoma State, Timian decided playing for the Cowboys wasn't the right fit. Having already built a relationship with former Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, Timian transferred to IU, again as a walk-on, for the 2015 season.
In his corner
Once at Indiana, Timian found himself in a similar position to the one he left at Oklahoma State, a walk-on needing to prove his worth.
Luckily, there was an upperclassman in his corner that had faced a similar situation.
Mitchell Paige, a redshirt-junior in 2015 and a former walk-on himself, had been Timian's host on a visit to Bloomington. After Timian decided he was transferring to IU, Paige offered him a chance to live together.
“Just from there it was over-with,” Paige said of he and Timian's relationship. “Stayed with me and pretty much anything I did, he would do it. We were really good friends and did pretty much everything together.”
That year, Paige was slated for significant playing time. He finished the year with 57 receptions for 684 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. Timian, on the other hand, appeared in just six games, hauling in two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
As Paige's understudy, Timian began to grow as a receiver, learning what he could from his roommate's game as he continued his slow ascent up the IU depth chart.
“I got to see how much work it takes to play at a high level,” Timian said. “He had such a high motor that he was never looking to come out and that's something that he's definitely instilled in me. You know, if you want to be a big-time player you can't look to come out and you want the ball when it matters and I think that's definitely something that I've tried to take on to my own.”
Paige followed his breakout season by earning a scholarship and matching his numbers from the year prior, while Timian was named the 2016 Walk-On Player of the Year after securing 19 receptions for 277 yards.
“I don't think he catches it as well as I do just 'cause my pride,” Paige joked about Timian. “But he's faster than me, bigger than me, stronger than me, pretty much just an upgraded version of me.”
Timian was following the blueprint.
A star is born
With Paige graduated and off to the NFL as the 2017 season neared, it was evident Timian would compete for a major role in the offense. The Hoosiers were in need of a slot receiver and he fit the mold.
Entering the season opener against No. 2 Ohio State on Aug. 31, Timian was slated as the third or fourth option in the passing game behind senior Ian Thomas, redshirt-junior Simmie Cobbs and juniors Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale.
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said in his weekly news conference after the game that the Hoosiers had planned to use Westbrook on the outside, as he did for much of 2016, and in the slot. But when Westbrook tore his ACL on the opening kickoff, the IU passing attack had a hole that needed to be plugged.
Timian filled the slot receiver role well, racking up 10 receptions – a career high – for 72 yards in the first start of his IU career.
“That was a great first game for him,” starting quarterback Richard Lagow said. “I don't think anybody was surprised by that. He's been pretty much that kind of receiver since he's been here to be quite honest, even though last year he didn't have that big of a role. People still knew that that's kind of what he was capable of.”
Timian followed his opening act with four catches on seven passes for 25 yards in a Week 2 win over Virginia. Although his yardage output wasn't as prolific as the opener, Timian's four receptions against the Cavaliers were tied for second most on the team.
If Timian's first two games prove anything, it's clear the one-time walk-on will be a centerpiece of the Hoosiers' offense this year. And although it's been a fortuitous road to relevance, at present, Timian's just trying to take advantage of the chance he's earned.
“Everyone has a different story of how they got here,” Timian said. “Mine's definitely very unique, but I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunity.”
Note: Indiana will play host to Charleston Southern on Oct. 7, replacing this weekend's game against Florida International that was canceled because of Hurricane Irma.
The game contract between Indiana (1-1) and Football Championship Subdivision member Charleston Southern (0-1) has been signed, and the kickoff time will be announced later.
The Hoosiers next play against Georgia Southern on Sept. 23.