STILLWATER — Luke Del Rio has not had a typical childhood.
As the son of Jack Del Rio, the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator and former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, he's moved 18 times and lived in seven different states. He's used to the praise and criticism that comes with having his family in the public eye. And this summer, he's been picking the brain of Peyton Manning during Broncos OTAs.
Luke, a three-star quarterback from Valor Christian in Highlands Ranch, Colo., committed to Oklahoma State last week. He talked with The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell about his decision to pledge to the Cowboys, his famous father and what he's learned while growing up around the NFL.
Q: How did you come to the decision to commit to OSU?
A: They were my dream school, so I wanted to commit on the spot. I talked to my dad about it and he was like, “No you can't do that. You've got to wait.” I was like, “OK fine.” I waited a couple days, and I was actually losing sleep over it, because I knew that's where I wanted to go and I didn't want it them to come down to a decision and have to go in another direction. I committed for all the right reasons. Coach Monken, known him forever. Coach Gundy is obviously a great coach. And I love the offense. I think it's one of the best offenses a quarterback can be in, especially if they want to go to the NFL, because they run all pro concepts, just out of shotgun.
What's it been like growing up as the son of one of the most prominent names in the NFL?
Being in the same place for nine years was incredible. I got to build a great relationship with a few players. (Jaguars kicker) Josh Scobee was probably the one player that I hung out with the most. Great guy. When you see when rookies come in, you see why some don't work out and why some thrive. This is why the scouting process is so flawed — there's a lot more than this guy runs fast, this guy jumps high or this guy can throw it a mile. Ultimately, that stuff barely even matters. You have to be able to do it, but it's really what is his work ethic? Is he coachable? What does he act like when takes a bad rep? Does he pick up his teammates? You see all of these little things.
How much have you gotten to interact with Peyton Manning since he signed with the Broncos?
I think (Wednesday) was the fifth OTA I've been to. I've been in the quarterback meetings. I'm literally on his hip the entire day. If I was him, I'd be getting kind of annoyed (laughs). This is one of the rarest opportunities that a guy like me can get, and I'm not going to waste it. I'm just taking advantage of it and seizing the opportunity, because I realize how great he is. Being with Blaine (Gabbert) last year, he's a rookie, so you get the whole spectrum of it. You have a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and you have a rookie. I got to see both aspects of it.
What's the biggest thing you've already learned from him?
The details. Every protection, every audible, every hot route, he needs to know and he wants to know. There probably doesn't go a minute where he isn't talking to a player, talking to a coach, fixing, adjusting, talking to the O-line. With all of that, you take it in and you see just how deliberate and nonstop he is. He's relentless.
He is a perfectionist at everything. If something isn't right, it can be the tiniest thing, one missed block. Most guys would say, “Hey, we'll get it next time.” He's back on the ball, everybody's back on the ball, we're going to do it again. Sometimes he'll even do it two or three times to make sure he ingrains it in the person's mind.
Was it hard dealing with the outside criticism your dad was getting before he was let go in Jacksonville? Are you able to shut the rest of the world out to that kind of stuff?
There are two sides to it. You can either overreact to everything and fight with everybody that says anything about your dad. Of course, you want to defend your parent, but it comes with the territory. I think it was time in Jacksonville, and we moved on. I kind of shut everything out, but during the season you'd get a “Jaguars suck” or something like that, and you just use it as fuel. I get this a lot — “He's just going to Oklahoma State because of who his dad is,” and nothing has fueled me more than that. That is the single most, the strongest motivation that drives me in everyday life.
Do you think that's helped prepare you for the ups and downs of being in the spotlight as a college quarterback?
Absolutely. You have to take everything in stride. You can't overact at anything, otherwise you're living on a roller coaster. As a quarterback, you get all the praise and all of the blame. It can be a sack and it's not your fault, but it really is, because you have to shift the protections and if a guy gets beat, then you should have gotten rid of the ball. Really, emotionally, it's the quarterback's burden, and that's why I love it, because you have so much responsibility. That's why I play quarterback — because I want to have the ball in my hands every single play.
What's the last year been like for you? Your family has gone through a lot of transition with moving from Jacksonville to Denver.
This move was pretty hard. My dad got hired on a Friday, came home on Saturday and said we're moving on Sunday. Usually you would have a day or two to say your goodbyes. I had the opportunity to stay in Jacksonville, but I wanted to stay with my dad, so I moved up to Denver. I've taken a few trips back to Florida to see my friends, and they've been great, everybody's been welcoming. But it was a pretty tough year.
Your dad's a defensive guy. How'd you become a quarterback, anyway?
I've always been able to throw it better than average. I don't know. I was playing flag football and they we're like, “Try out for quarterback” and I was like, “OK” and I loved it. I got to touch the ball every play and throw bombs. Then in middle school — this was another underlying motivator — the coach gave me one chance to take a snap and I fumbled it, and he said, “You're not playing quarterback.” So I played defensive tackle. Freshman year (of high school), I played outside linebacker but I was the backup quarterback. Then sophomore year, I was like, “OK I really want to pursue this, I'm going to make varsity.” I made varsity, I was the backup quarterback, but I was stuck in a Wing-T system and didn't think I could really thrive, so I transferred to a spread system.
You recently became an Elite 11 finalist. What does that mean to you?
I chose the Columbus (regional) because I wanted to see where I stacked up against the best of the best. I thought that I was just as good, if not better, than all of them. Shane Morris has probably the strongest arm I've ever seen in a high schooler. Malik Zaire is incredible, Ryan Burns, those guys are great. I got the invite about a week after the Columbus Regional and I headed out to Oakland because I knew Max Browne, Cooper Bateman, all those guys were going to be out there. I thought I stacked up with those guys, too. I was like “OK I can do this.” It was a great confidence-booster, because I knew I could do it, but I wanted to know I could do it.
You were in Stillwater for last season's Bedlam win. What was that experience like?
I got there and I didn't really know what to expect. I had heard about T. Boone Pickens and how he's a phenomenal donator and alum. I saw the facilities and I was blown away. I've never seen facilities like those anywhere — NFL or college. I knew Coach Monken, obviously, and he was so welcoming. I got to see Travis, his son, and meet Coach Gundy. The atmosphere is what really sold me. I loved the feel of Stillwater. It's a smaller feel, but it's still a college town and you get that southern hospitality that I love. With that being said, the game itself, with them beating Oklahoma the way they did, it really sold me.
Did you rush the field?
Absolutely. I went down. I was like, “(The drop) isn't that bad” and my dad was like, “Take the stairs,” and I was, “OK, OK.”
How do you plan to approach the recruiting process between now and Signing Day, now that you've made your decision to commit to OSU?
A few schools have come in. I'm solid to Oklahoma State. I'm not changing my mind. There's nothing to make me change my mind that another school could say, because I know (OSU's) coaches, I know their intent, I know that they're honest. Oklahoma State is for me.