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Echols-Luper's time now for Red Wolves

by Troy Schulte | August 7, 2016 at 2:45 a.m.
Cameron Echols-Luper

JONESBORO -- Trooper Taylor knew of Cameron Echols-Luper's athletic ability long before either got to Arkansas State.

Echols-Luper, now a junior wide receiver at ASU, was in the sixth grade when Taylor first saw a glimpse of what has Red Wolves' coaches excited for the current possibilities. It came when Taylor and Curtis Luper, Cameron's father, were both assistant coaches at Oklahoma State and Luper showed Taylor a cell-phone video someone had sent him.

Versatile newcomer

• Cameron Echols-Luper got the ball in a variety of ways at TCU. He just didn’t get the chances very often. at ASU, the junior’s role will be the same, he’s just likely to get more chances.













In the video, Taylor said, Cameron "leap-frogged" over a classmate in the hallway at school. Luper, Taylor remembers, was upset his son was goofing off. Taylor set his friend and co-worker straight.

"I'm telling you, he jumped over the top of the kid," said Taylor, now ASU's cornerbacks coach. "I told Curtis, 'You better be glad he can do that, because you will not be paying for his school.'"

Echols-Luper is poised to play his first game for ASU in less than a month, which will give him a chance to display the athletic versatility coaches have been raving about since he arrived in Jonesboro almost a year ago.

He signed with TCU out of high school where his father is now the Horned Frogs' running backs coach and became an honorable mention All-Big 12 punt returner while also competing on the track and field team. But, Echols-Luper had trouble getting on the field consistently as a wide receiver, and always wanted to play quarterback. He knew he wouldn't get the chance to do so at TCU.

So last August, he showed up at ASU at the end of fall camp searching for a new chance. He played on the scout team during the fall and for a time in spring got his chance at quarterback. By ASU's spring game, he had moved to a role in which he could get the ball in any number of ways.

Officially, Echols-Luper is playing the A-Back position left open by the departed J.D. McKissic. But intrigued by his speed and athletic ability, few doors are closed for Echols-Luper, who helped TCU's 400-meter relay team finish second at the Big 12 championships in 2014.

At his new home, there will be virtually no limits to how he'll be used, Coach Blake Anderson said. He'll catch passes, throw passes, take handoffs, line up behind the center, return punts and kicks and he may even end up being ASU's primary punter.

"I don't know what record that breaks for however many ways he's going to touch the ball," Anderson said. "But there's a chance he's going to touch it in every aspect you could throughout the course of the game."

It's not the role Echols-Luper wanted when he left Fort Worth last August. But it has helped make missing out on becoming a college quarterback a bit easier.

"It lets me be free and be myself," Echols-Luper said. "Every day I'm going to bring something new to the table. I'm going to try something new and you just never know what's coming to come out."

A year ago at this time, Echols-Luper wasn't so sure about the future of his career. He remembers being all-in at TCU for the start of fall camp, but the feeling eventually waned and he discussed with his father a potential transfer. Luper then phoned Taylor, who said Echols-Luper they could easily find a spot for him.

After Oklahoma State, Taylor and Luper were both on Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn. Echols-Luper gained more than 1,900 yards of offense as a a senior quarterback at Auburn High School while teammates with Taylor's son, Blaise, a junior cornerback at ASU.

"Curtis wanted him with someone who is family and who would put him in some structure," Taylor said "Every parent, when you lay down at night, you want to know that your son is in good hands."

Taylor said Echols-Luper didn't come with any guarantees, though. Not about playing quarterback, at least.

"We said 'We're going to give you a chance but that doesn't mean you're going to be the quarterback,'" Taylor said. "Once he saw that I think he was fine with it. I think the transition has been good for him because he's happy. And when you're happy you're going to do much better."

Echols-Luper said last year's year off per NCAA transfer rules was tough, but that he has no regrets leaving a Big 12 contender. He spent the year learning a new offense and his new teammates and is ready now to finally take a primary role in an offense.

"They've let me be myself on the field," he said. "That's the easiest way to becoming a better player, is be yourself and play as yourself."

Sports on 08/07/2016

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