Lippincott running with a heavy heart
RENO – For each home game, Nevada running back Luke Lippincott leaves a ticket at the will-call window for his mom, Linda, even though he knows she won’t ever use it.
Call it a symbolic gesture. Call it a son’s way of remembering his mother, who lost a lengthy battle with brain cancer last spring.
“I still feel like I’m playing for her,” Lippincott said. “It was big for me for her to be able to watch me play a couple of times (last year) and for me to prove myself to her.”
Luke was cheated by his mom’s death. His time with her was far too short, but there isn’t a day that goes by when she’s not in his thoughts.
“It’s an emotional thing (for Luke),” said Dr. Brian Lippincott, Luke’s father and a psychologist. “He feels if he leaves a ticket, she’s there watching from above.”
Though Linda was officially diagnosed with cancer when Luke was a freshman in high school, her health issues began two years prior, and only quick reaction by Luke saved the family from tragedy.
While driving to a sporting event in the Salinas, Calif., area, Linda suffered a seizure. Luke, who was 13 at the time, reached down from the passenger seat and pressed the brake to stop the car before it passed through a busy intersection. The car landed on its side in a lettuce field.
The elder Lippincott admitted he was a little alarmed when he got home that night and nobody was there. He eventually discovered that the family was at the hospital.
“We were with Kaiser at the time,” Brian Lippincott said. “They ran some tests, but didn’t find anything. It was a traumatic event for Luke.”
When cancer diagnosis came two years later, Linda decided to move back east to Pennsylvania so her four sisters – all nurses – and parents could take care of her. During Luke’s senior year at Palma High School, she was able to return to Northern California for a few of her son’s football games.
While she missed a great career – he rushed for 2,200 yards and scored 30 touchdowns – she saw him during a senior year where he earned second-team all-state honors and played both running back and safety. But despite the loss of his mom, he still has his No. 1 fan in Brian Lippincott, who attends most of Nevada’s games, home or away.
“My dad loves football,” Luke Lippincott said. “He loves to see me play. He played football in high school and at Saint Mary’s College. I thought I was going to go there until they closed the program down.
“I play a lot for him. I want to make him proud. I know he gives up a lot to come up here and see me. He’ll stop anything to come here and be with me even if it doesn’t have to do with football.”
The elder Lippincott, who has his own medical practice and also teaches at Cal-State Monterey Bay and John F. Kennedy University in Campbell, spent several weeks this past summer observing workouts. What he saw was a son who was originally recruited to be a safety at Nevada emerging as the Wolf Pack’s top running threat.
Lippincott backed up Robert Hubbard at running back in 2006, though he made some big contributions in that role. He finished with 456 yards and nine touchdowns and posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Utah State (144 yards) and Louisiana Tech (122).
After a sub-par game against Nebraska in this year’s season opener, Lippincott has again notched back-to-back 100-yard efforts and now leads Nevada in rushing with 262 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was a little too fast (against Nebraska),” Lippincott said. “I wasn’t giving my blockers time. I have to trust them to do their job. One of the hardest things to do is slow down. When you get the ball you want to go as fast as you can.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound running back is now ready for Saturday’s game against rival UNLV at Mackay Stadium in Reno. And, once again, there will be a ticket waiting for Linda Lippincott.
“He’s becoming a Nevada back,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said after the Wolf Pack’s 52-17 win over Nicholls State earlier this month. “He knows what I mean. He practices like he plays (full speed). I’m very happy with how he’s played thus far.”
His mother would be, too.