Corbin Louks no longer a dark horse

By Fareed Taghvaee, Special to The Chronicle

Corbin Louks has always been the underdog.

The 19-year-old junior quarterback has constantly been told he didn’t belong, he’s too small, he can’t throw or is not talented enough.

Naysayers aside, Louks’ confidence has never wavered and this spring, Louks will be one of four quarterbacks vying to grab a tight hold of the reins on the Utah football team.

At first glance, Louks, a product of San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, Calif., does not look like a typical football player: He’s listed at 6-foot even and doesn’t possess an intimidating physical presence.

Add to this the fact that he is undecided on his major, single and spends much of his free time playing “Call of Duty 4” and hanging out with friends, he sounds just like any other college student.

But once he steps on the field, Louks defies expectations.

It’s his charm, along with his work on the field, that has won Louks the admiration and respect of many of his peers.

“Corbin is a giving person off the field,” said free safety Robert Johnson. “Me and him went to talk to a Pop Warner football team in Rose Park and the kids loved him. He had good advice to give the kids.”

Growing up in Indiana, Louks’ passion for football has never tottered.

His father, Rob Louks, played wide receiver at the University of Evansville, the alma mater of Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan.

His family moved to New Mexico and finally settled in the Bay Area when Louks was 8 years old.

Despite spending most of his life in Northern California, Louks patterned his game after his idol, Peyton Manning, perennial Pro Bowl quarterback and Super Bowl champion for the Indianapolis Colts.

“He is a field general, the best QB in the NFL, period,” Louks said.

Louks was a two-year starter at San Ramon Valley High School, where he threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year.

But it was at the end of his junior season when he realized his dream of playing college football could become a reality.

Like all hopeful college athletes, he worked the camp circuit in the hopes of getting noticed.

The message would be something that would be repeated: “good arm, quick, but undersized.”

That never stopped him from proving himself in competition.

At a simple football camp at Arizona State, he showed his fire.

ASU had already chosen a quarterback for 2007, but Louks impressed the staff on campus. He outperformed their recruit in every drill and caught the eye of head coach Dennis Erickson. He told Louks he was amazing, and he had beat out their guy and had a great arm, but was just undersized.

“That just stuck with me,” Louks said. “I’ve always had that prove-everyone-wrong attitude.”

Even playing in the Bay Area, which has recently become a recruiting hotbed, Louks was largely ignored by recruiters from California’s major schools.

But he still had offers on the table.

There were offers from four other schools before he narrowed his choices to Utah and the University of Nevada-Reno.

As he puts it, he “just wanted to play football.”

After he finally chose the Utes, he still flew under the radar, falling behind the Spanish Fork standout Griffin Robles.

He knew what he had to do to get on the field.

His priorities were to gain muscle, work extensively with the scout team and get adjusted to the speed of the college game.

But plans change.

During the 2007 season, veteran Brian Johnson separated his shoulder in the first game of the season and backup Tommy Grady struggled in his first start.

The coaches found it necessary to make a change.

“They brought me into the office the week of the UCLA game and coach (Andy) Ludwig said they needed me to play,” Louks said. “I just took it. As I’m a true freshman, I just want to play.”

Sept. 15, 2007.

The Utes romped over the visiting No. 11 Bruins, 44-6, on his father’s birthday.

“It was just kind of one of those storybook moments,” Louks said.

He netted 10 rushing yards and went 2-for-3 for 18 passing yards, most importantly on a 12-yard touchdown strike to Dallin Rogers.

In 2008, he was the official No. 2 serving as Johnson’s backup and the “mix-up” quarterback.

His career game against Colorado State was a memorable performance.

Louks dazzled rushing for 109 yards, including two touchdowns, most notably a 69-yard run that saw No. 19 snake his way through a plethora of Rams.

It was the 31-17 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama that stood above everything else for Louks.

“To go play a team like Alabama, where nobody gives you a chance, and pretty much manhandle them was an unreal feeling,” he said.

Louks is now No. 1, kind of.

Recent JC transfer Terrance Cain and Louks will be going head-to-head for starting position next year.

“I love competition, that’s what I strive for,” Louks said. “That’s what sports are all about.”

He confidently describes himself as “a leader,” a “student of the game,” and someone “always working harder to get better.”

And Louks has already proven that.

“Corbin is a leader,” said junior wide receiver Jereme Brooks. “He demands great play from himself and really encourages his teammates. He makes his teammates around him better.”

Louks said his goal is to get back to the Bowl Championship Series plateau again while winning a second straight Mountain West Conference title.

And he’s ready for what’s ahead.

He has a simple message for all the detractors: “Come out and watch,” he said. “I can throw the ball, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

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Tyler Cobb

Corbin Louks dives for the pylon in Utah?s season-opening win in Ann Arbor, Mich. Often referred to as ?undersized? Louks has made the most of his time at the U.

Thien Sok

Louks is temporarily penciled in as the No. 1 quarterback this spring. Louks? speed and leadership have stood out to teammates and coaches.