By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
What do Arizona and Georgia Tech have in common?
They both have a Luginbill twin.
Tommy Luginbill was named Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback last Thursday and will lead his Yellow Jackets into Thursday’s game against Arizona. His sister Kerry is a UA student and a recruiting hostess for the football team.
With her loyalties pointing in two different directions, Kerry has decided to remain diplomatic about who she is rooting for.
“It’s really hard,” Kerry said. “I have great relationships with the football program here at Arizona and the school, but blood is thicker than water. I’m not neccessarily rooting for Georgia Tech, but I am rooting for Tommy.”
Father Al Luginbill, formerly the head coach at San Diego State during the days of Marshall Faulk and currently waiting to be hired as a head coach in the NFL’s World League in Europe faces the same problem as his daughter.
“When Kerry attended Arizona a couple of years ago no one thought in their wildest dreams that he would be in competition against her university,” Al said. “Arizona’s the university I look to every week and wish the best of luck because that’s where my daughter goes and because Dick (head coach Dick Tomey) and I are friends and I want to see him do well, so it’s going to be interesting. You’ve got both kids, but that’s your son out there, and that makes it different.”
For Tommy Luginbill, different is good. A former junior college star at Palomar (Calif.) Junior College, the Arizona game marks his first start at quarterback in an NCAA Division I-A game. The move from JC to ESPN is not without its differences.
“If I hadn’t been around the Division I game, because of my father, since I was a kid, it would be like night and day,” Tommy said. “But the biggest difference is overall team speed, everything moves so much quicker. Also this level does more on defense. The JC level has high-caliber athletes, but it doesn’t have 11 guys at the same high caliber.”
A high caliber is what the 6-foot, 175-pound junior Luginbill has had to play at during the spring and fall practices to wrestle the starting job from incumbent Donnie Davis.
“It was a full out battle,” Luginbill said. “He started all 11 games last season, so I knew coming in that it was a situation where I knew I’d have to be better. We both did the best we could and it came down to the coaches’ decision — they picked who they thought was best.”
Luginbill made a bid for the starting job in the spring, when Davis was out with a shoulder injury. He capped off his performance by completing 10 of 16 passes for 220 yards during last week’s final scrimmage.
“It’s the most exciting feeling I’ve ever had,” Luginbill said about his selection. “But there’s another challenge ahead and I’m looking forward to it.”
For Luginbill, his ascension to starter at Georgia Tech is the end of a long journey that began at Torrey Pines High in San Diego.
Torrey Pines was successful during Luginbill’s enrollment, but primarily as a running school — it did not give Luginbill a chance to showcase his arm. After high school, he elected to attend Palomar, where he flourished in their pass-oriented offense, setting California JC records for passing yards (6,787) and completions (463), while leading his teams to a 21-1 record in two years.
Last year, he led Palomar to the National Junior College championship and a perfect 11-0 record, and was named a first-team All-American by the Junior College Athletic Bureau.
Arizona pursued Luginbill after his freshman season at Palomar, but he stayed, a move he does not regret.
“I felt it was in my best interests to go back to JC,” Luginbill said. “The best thing I ever did was go to JC. I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now without it. I wouldn’t be able to throw the ball consistently. Those two years were an unbelievable help to me.”
Now that he’s in the big time, Luginbill’s attitude remains the same.
“I’m used to winning,” he said. “Run or pass, I only want to win.”
The elder Luginbill feels the same way about his son.
“In high school he was in a situation where they didn’t throw the football but won a lot of games,” Al Luginbill said. “Then he went to Palomar and that was an opposite philosophy. They threw it all over the place and they won doing that. He’s always been the kid that if that’s the philososphy, then that is what he’s going to do. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Whatever it takes against Arizona will mean standing in and not becoming flustered in the face of the Wildcats’ rush.
“Arizona is so confident in what they are doing that they don’t need to change,” Tommy said. “They’re probably saying, ‘He’s a JC guy,’ and they’re going to come after me.”
Whether they get to Luginbill or not on Thursday, there will be at least one Wildcat fan rooting for Luginbill when the final gun goes off.
“I’m so proud of him,” Kerry Luginbill said, who will join her mom and dad at the game in Atlanta. “He’s worked so hard for it and he deserves all the playing time he gets.”
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