Prep football


CLINTON — One dimensional has never been used to describe Northeast's Lucas Empen.

His versatility has caught the interest of the University of Iowa football staff, and Empen announced Saturday on Twitter that he will join the Hawkeyes next season.

"Originally I was recruited as a tight end, but they told me depending on workouts I might be a lineman," Empen said Sunday evening in a telephone interview. "But on my official visit yesterday, I told the coaches I also played defense, and they were excited. So I have a lot of options."

Opponents had no option but to deal with the two-way standout during his four-year varsity career. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound senior not only caught 51 passes for 598 yards, but he also was one of the team's leading tacklers with 25 solo stops and 19 assists. During his career he earned Clinton Herald All-Area honors on each side of the ball.

While coaches and fans might drool over Empen's size and athleticism, Northeast football coach Jerad Block is impressed by another asset.

"People will see 6-7, 240, and of course he's going to make it," Block said. "I see a 3.7 GPA and character, then size. Everything within his control he controlled and did the most with it."

Empen credits his family and Block for his development on and off the field.

"First and foremost it's my parents," he said. "They always told me grades will take you a lot farther than anything else will. Coach Block has done everything he could for me. He made me the player I am today, and I'm very grateful to him."

Besides being an all-state football player, Empen also is the leading scorer and rebounder for Northeast's 14-1 basketball team.

"That will be a rough change," he said about giving up that sport. "I've been playing since third grade."

Empen, who also considered Drake, Northern Iowa and Minnesota-Mankato, said he didn't grow up watching a lot of football but that picked up as he grew.

"I figured I have a football body and better take advantage of that," he said. ""This is the opportunity of a lifetime, so I had to take it. I'm really going to enjoy this opportunity."

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