PULLMAN – The history between Brandon Dawkins and Luke Falk is fairly fleeting, and though each quarterback for a period held the starting job the other coveted, the transitory nature of their time in each other’s lives prevented either long term friendship or animosity.
But Dawkins, who will lead the Arizona Wildcats in Saturday’s game against Falk’s Washington State Cougars, will forever be a reminder of one of the sourest periods in Falk’s life. But also one of the most important.
Because Dawkins was there when Falk left his comfortable home in Logan, Utah to chase notoriety amid the Los Angeles lifestyle at football power Oaks Christian. When Falk left, having lost his starting position after two games including a bad loss to Seattle’s Bellevue High, it was Dawkins who stayed and got the Pac-12 scholarship offers.
But Falk found out what makes him happy, and just how little he fit in at a commuter school where he had to park his pickup truck next his classmates’ high-end sports cars.
“I think everything that has happened in my life has led up to this point and I’m grateful for it,” Falk said. “At the time, it was really crappy during some parts of that time. I’m really grateful for everything that happened to me, I think it shaped me into the person I am today. It sucked, but I think it paid off.”
Falk had moved to California as one of the country’s young prodigy quarterbacks. CNN did a television special on his training. Florida State told him a scholarship was waiting. And so transferring to a school that in recent years had produced NFL alumni like Jimmy Clausen, Cassius Marsh and Chris Owusu made sense.
Most of Falk’s classmates at Oaks Christian were chasing a dream. Falk had classmates who are now on Broadway. Supermodel Bella Hadid was an underclasswoman, and Dawkins himself lived nearly an hour away in Oxnard.
“I was home sick from the get-go. I tried to get back to Utah a week after,” said Falk, who bought his own plane ticket back to Utah. “I was just excited to get home. I was just trying to get back home, be with my family.”
The Oaks Christian experiment had failed, and Falk returned to familiar Logan High. But because he had to transfer in, he had to sit out a season. Falk missed his critical junior year, when most colleges scout their future quarterbacks. Despite a successful senior year, Falk did not have any scholarship offers.
Fortunately for Falk, the Cougars needed to take two quarterbacks that year. Unfortunately, they only had one scholarship to give and it had already been snatched up.
“We were short on numbers and out of scholarships,” Mike Leach said. “One way or the other, we were going to get the best walk-on we could find.”
They found a good one. Falk, a redshirt junior, has started 23 games for the Cougars and won 16 of them. He was a First Team All-Conference selection as a sophomore, and this year he is one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award given to the nation’s top senior or redshirt junior quarterback.
In Pullman, he found a place that was just like home. Logan and Pullman are both towns of less than 50,000 people, primarily built around the local college.
Falk’s high school coach, Mike Favero, and his mom, Analee Falk, recently made a trip out to Pullman for the UCLA game.
“We were just laughing about how similar Pullman is to Logan, Utah,” Analee Falk said. “When we moved from the Salt Lake area to Logan, it was an immediate success. Luke fit in. It just seemed like a dream come true. When we went to Oaks Christian it was the complete opposite. So when Pullman happened, it was the same as the Logan scenario.”
Falk has thrived at WSU and found the kind of success he hoped for when he left Logan for the big city. But now he knows that he does not need skyscrapers or bright lights to achieve his goals on the field or in life.
“A bunch of things have really been good to me here,” Falk said. “I think a lot of things have fallen into place. I just really wake up every day thanking God for the opportunity to be here, because I look at any little thing that could have happened in high school and I’d probably be somewhere else.”
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