Number 17. The blizzard that cuts through the field in time for an ice-cold defensive tackle or a whirlwind goal. Last year, he assisted the only goal against DC United U23 and the unbelievable comeback against GA Revolution with a goal that knocked a defender's head backward before powering into the net. This year, he has blasted onto the pitch in full form as a defender and a mid-fielder. We may never know where he is going to show up, but one thing is certain: Luke Winter is the kind of blizzard that people talk about for years to come.
Luke is entering his senior season at Tennessee Wesleyan, where he has earned AAC 1st Team and two impressive 2011 stats: 1st in nation for game winning goals and 3rd in nation for goals per game. This former captain of Norfolk U18 says, "I love to attack and make things happen for myself and team mates." Those who have seen him play know that he doesn't stop until that final whistle blows, a strategy resulting from his belief that "things do not just happen; you have to earn your luck on and off the soccer field." And does he ever earn his luck.
Luke will be graduating college come December, a little earlier than most because he not only played for Chattanooga last summer he also took extra classes. Not to be outdone, Luke's college and club teammate John Carrier is apparently doing the same this summer, which caused Luke to rib John about it being his turn to learn every mile marker between here and Athens. But the road to Chattanooga is not all that must be learned this season.
Returning this season for his second year with Chattanooga FC, Luke realizes that, with so many former players moving on, the club has been forced to build a new team. And that can be a difficult path to travel: "It is hard to bring in so many players from different schools and have everyone click straight away," but he maintains that "the team is working really hard to deliver for each other and the coaching staff and the fans."
The fans have taken a special liking to Luke. Chattahooligan Darth Nooga relishes being able to say "Luke, I am your father." And Emily, a local youth player, says, "He's always a strong player." Additionally, after Luke signed her ball and chatted with her, she added, "He has a great smile." Luke smiles for his fans because he appreciates them: "The fans always seem to have great fun. Even when things aren't going exactly how we want, they try to get into the heads of the opponents and encourage the Chattanooga players." Luke also admits that he enjoys the after game meet-and-greet sessions, when he gets to sign gear for the children.
Talking with children is something Luke does often. He coaches for McMinn United Futbol Club in Athens, TN, where he "loves having the chance to pass on soccer knowledge and see others enjoy playing." Luke maintains that coaching is the next best thing to playing.
Luke may feel that playing soccer is the best thing, but many of his fans would say that getting to watch him play is the best, because Luke comes in like a blizzard and goes out like...a blizzard. Always giving his all.