I catch up with Eddie Lusk in a rare spare moment, between the gym and the library. Though he’s an impressive physical specimen who wowed the crowd at the River Kings’ open tryout in Cedar Rapids, he’s not currently playing college football. Rather, he’s finishing a Master’s Degree in Political Science at his alma mater, Eastern Illinois. Having just finished a workout, he’s off to work on term papers.
“It’s a grind,” he says with a laugh, “but that’s just how I approach things. Getting an advanced degree is always something I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve always considered myself a professional football player. That’s just how I see it, so that’s just what I have to do.
“I approach it like this,” he continues. “I want to go out there knowing I’m the best, physically and mentally. It’s like, you’re not going to beat me physically. You’re not going to beat me mentally. The only way you’re going to beat me is to outwork me, and you’re not going to outwork me.”
He finishes with a laugh, but he’s not joking. Lusk willed himself into a running back. “I didn’t play football until my sophomore year of high school,” he says. “I was a sprinter. I was heavily recruited by Division I colleges as a sprinter, but I was always big and strong; I had a football body. So the [high school] football coach is in the gym one day after school, and he sees me finishing a workout. He comes over and says ‘Hey, you’re pretty strong, why don’t you come out for the team? Try it out for a day, see if you like it.’”
Needless to say, he liked it, and despite such a short time in pads, colleges recruited Lusk in football as well as track. “I was recruited on potential,” he says. My senior year [of high school], I had a broken ankle. It wasn’t diagnosed, though, so I ended up playing a lot of that season on defense. Without a lot of tape, colleges looked at my track numbers. My best 100 meter dash time was 10.69. I did the 200 in 21.84; ran a 4.4 40. They saw the potential was there.” Lusk began his collegiate sports career at McKendree University, a Division II school. “I ran track and played football there. But I knew I wanted to devote myself to football full time, so I transferred here [to Eastern Illinois].”
Unfortunately, injuries sidetracked him again. “I did my pro day at Northwestern in 2018. That led to a workout with a CFL team, but I injured my hamstring during the tryout. I was disappointed, but I never thought for a moment it was over. I decided the best thing to do was to focus on school and conditioning for a year. Eastern [Illinois] offered me a gradership, which made that decision easy. I’m not going to turn down a free Master’s Degree!
“From there it was just a matter of looking for the right opportunity,” he continues. “The IFL is a great developmental league, and Cedar Rapids looked like a great fit. I saw they hired Coach Mann, who has a great track record of success and player development, and I was really impressed with the situation. So I sent in my film, the team got in touch, and I came up to the tryout.”
Though he signed his first pro contract at the end of the tryout, Lusk knows his journey is just beginning. “Film study is my main focus right now,” he says. “I watch game tape every day. I know there’s an adjustment to the indoor game, and I’m determined to have no learning curve when I get to camp. I want there to be no hesitation on Coach’s part. I want him to say “Lusk, get in there!” and I’m ready to go, no matter what he’s asking me to do. I’ve always believed myself to a professional football player; now it’s time to do it.”
“So what’s next?” I ask him. “Your career’s over, you’re up in Canton, Ohio, putting on that butt-ugly jacket, and they’re unveiling your plaque. What now?”
“That’s really how I see it happening,” he laughs. Once again, he’s kidding, but he’s not joking. “That’s how you have to approach it. That’s how you have to get it done.
“I’m totally focused on football right now,” he continues, “but we all know football’s not forever. I’ve always believed in being a lifelong learner. There’s so much I still want to do. I’m trying to get a personal training business off the ground. I’ve thought about putting out a clothing line. I’m working on a book. And I’ve got a son on the way in January,” he laughs. “The future is wide open.”