GOOSE LAKE — He has played in only one varsity football game, but the nickname has already stuck.

The beast from Northeast.

After missing last season with an injury, Spencer Lueders has emerged as one of the area’s most dynamic playmakers. He added 30 pounds of muscle, learned two positions, became a team captain and the centerpiece for the Northeast football reloading project.

“I really want to prove myself,” Lueders said. “I haven’t been out here since sophomore year, so I want to prove a point.”

Lueders, a former running back, started last Friday’s season opener at wide receiver and middle linebacker. He caught three passes for 66 yards, while making a team-high 10 tackles against Camanche’s tricky Wing-T offense.

Point proven.

“His drive stands out,” Northeast coach Jeremy Mosier said. “He’s got a tremendous competitiveness about him. Tenacious – that word comes to mind. He wasn’t anywhere near the program last year, not even in uniform, and then – bam! – he’s right there making plays.”

Lueders’ injury occurred the summer before his junior year at wrestling camp in Cedar Falls.

During a match, his upper body went one way, his ankle went another.

“I took the guy I was wrestling down right away, and I stuck the legs in,” Lueders said. “He had a switch, which is a move where he gets his hips out and turns into me, and my ankle got caught underneath him, and it snapped. I knew right away it wasn’t a sprained ankle. I’ve had those before, and it didn’t feel like that.”

He wore a medical boot for eight weeks. When football season arrived, he still didn’t feel 100 percent healthy.

“I thought about it and talked it over with my parents, and we decided I should sit out the season,” Lueders said. “If I came back, I wasn’t going to be able to come back until about the sixth game. I would have missed more than half the season anyway.”

Lueders suddenly had boatloads of free time. So he hit the weights. Hard. The Lueders family has a weight room in their four-car garage, and Spencer made it his second home.

“He realized, ‘My body broke, but I’ve got to rebuild it and get ready to go back at it,’” Lueders’ brother, Jared, said. “He knew he didn’t have much time left to play sports in high school. He knew he had to make up for the season he lost, so he really dedicated himself. He saw the opportunity in front of him, and he worked hard.”

Once football conditioning began, Lueders lifted at school with the team and then worked out in his garage at night. The young man who wrestled at 112 pounds his freshman year now weighs 195.

He displayed an unbending focus, which helped him avoid teenage temptations.

“I’m not going to lie: A lot of people here fall for the temptations,” Lueders said. “You have to keep yourself busy and look at the overall picture. You have to think to yourself, ‘Is that really fun or not?’ You have to think about your sports career. You only get to play high school sports once, so why mess it up?”

Coaches had not pegged his positions entering Northeast’s annual seven-on-seven competition this summer.

But that quickly changed.

Lueders lined up at middle linebacker for the first seven-on-seven session. Mosier and defensive coordinator Ryan Unruh watched closely as Lueders showed a magnetic attraction to the football. He made almost every play.

Unruh turned to Mosier.

“I think we found our middle linebacker,” he said.

The Rebels have replaced their entire defensive front seven, and Lueders has provided an anchor. His teammates voted him a team captain.

“The kids follow him,” Mosier said. “The kids look to him, and he understands that. He understands his role. He leads by example. He leads by example in the classroom. He leads by example in the hallway. He leads by example everywhere. He’s a quality addition to our program.”

Lueders’ speed, size and vertical leap make him a threat at wide receiver. All three of his catches last Friday against Camanche gained first downs on third-and-long.

He received double coverage often, and that will likely continue with a playmaker like him on the loose.

“He realizes he has a target on his back, but he can handle it,” Jared Lueders said. “I know he’s going to make the Rebel City proud. With all the heart and dedication he put in, he deserves to be where he’s at right now.”

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