UNA quarterbacks see childhood dreams become reality

Senior quarterback Luke Wingo reads a defender on an option play against Florida Tech Sept. 26. Wingo, along with teammate Jacob Tucker, leads a hectic lifestyle as a college football quarterback, he said.

Many sports fans dreamed of being a college football quarterback as a kid, leading their beloved team to a national championship.

UNA quarterbacks Luke Wingo and Jacob Tucker experience this reality on a daily basis.

“Football was my favorite sport growing up,” Wingo said. “As a young kid, I thought it would be really cool to play quarterback, but as I got older, that dream started to come into play.”

The senior quarterback comes from a pipeline of football players, including his father, Rich Wingo, who played linebacker in the National Football League for the Green Bay Packers.

“Football is what I was raised around,” Luke said. “My dad and my brother both played, and being in Tuscaloosa around Alabama football sparked it for me.”

Tucker, a junior from Linden, Tennessee, traveled a completely different path to the same destination as his teammate.

“I actually did not get seriously interested in football until my sophomore year of high school,” Tucker said. “When I was younger, I played every sport. I liked football, but it wasn’t my love until high school.”

Tucker said basketball put football on the backburner in high school. When he found out he had a better ability in football, he said he focused harder on it instead of basketball.

“My sophomore year I had 3,600 total yards, and we made the second round of the playoffs,” Tucker said. “After that year, it kind of hit me that I’m alright at this.”

Both Wingo and Tucker signed with UNA in 2012 as part of Coach Bobby Wallace’s first recruiting class in his second stint.

The man who directly recruited both quarterbacks has been in their shoes.

UNA Offensive Coordinator Cody Gross signed with the Lions in 1992 and quarterbacked them to three consecutive national championships in 1993-95.

Gross said as a kid, he pretended to lead the Chicago Bears to a championship.

“I was that guy,” Gross said. “It wasn’t on video games. It was in the yard. It was pretty special when I got that opportunity. It was a dream come true.”

Gross said his childhood dreams became authentic when he led the Lions to its first championship in 1993 on the last drive.

“I had envisioned something like that happening my whole life, and then I got to live it,” he said. “And to live it in the county I grew up in is special.”

Gross’ understudies said they appreciate having him as a coach because he has experienced similar situations.

“He was one of the main reasons I came to UNA,” Wingo said. “He knows what I’m going through. I know I can trust what he asks me to do because he knows what it takes to be successful.”

Tucker said he believes his persona is similar to what Gross exemplified 20 years ago.

“He’s been there before,” Tucker said. “If somebody tells me I can’t do something, I’m going to work hard to prove that I can, and I feel like Coach Gross has that same mentality. He shows me how to use that, and when to harness my emotion and be a quiet leader.”

Tucker said the life of a college football quarterback brings a lot of attention, both positive and negative.

“After the game, you either get too much credit or too much blame,” Tucker said. “Being in my position, you have a lot more eyes on you, so I try to be the kind of person I’d look up to as a kid.”