Washington State QB Luke Falk took circuitous road to success

Luke Falk will always be referred to as a former walk-on.

It's accurate, but deceiving, and after the redshirt freshman threw for 471 yards and five touchdowns in his debut as Washington State's starting quarterback, there are probably plenty of coaches around the country wondering how they missed on him.

There was a time when it was hard for Falk to understand, too. Especially after the way the recruiting process began.

When he boarded a plane from Utah headed for Tallahassee, Florida, during the summer of 2012, Falk was anxious to get back on campus at Florida State. A year prior, he sat in the office of Dameyune Craig, the Seminoles' quarterbacks coach at the time, and received his first scholarship offer.

"He told me, ‘We want to be the first to offer you,'" Falk said. "I thought the offers would roll in after that."

But because Falk played in just two games as a junior after transferring from Logan (Utah) High to Oaks Christian in Southern California, and then back to Logan, they didn't. He was off the recruiting radar.

It was disappointing for Falk, but at least he had Florida State. Or so he thought.

"I went down for the camp thinking I still had the offer and they pretty much said, ‘No, you don't have the offer anymore. You didn't have junior year film,'" Falk said. "It was kind of surprising. It was a bad plane ride for me back home, but it only motivated me more."

The junior season is without question the most important for a quarterback looking to get recruited, so even after Falk threw 3,618 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior, most schools were already set. He received offers from Idaho and Wyoming, but those weren't as appealing as the opportunity to receive an Ivy League education and play without an athletic scholarship at Cornell. He settled on the Big Red, but things changed once coach Kent Austin left to become the coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League.

His options remained limited.

"I kind of got my offer pulled from Idaho with the new staff, so that's kind of embarrassing," Falk said. "Recruiting was real rough."

Luckily Washington State coach Mike Leach came into the picture late with an offer to walk on with the Cougars. Falk liked that Logan ran a similar system to Leach's Air Raid and felt comfortable after meeting with Leach that he'd have a fair chance to compete with the Cougars' scholarship quarterbacks.

"When I first came up [to Pullman] on that visit as a walk on, I met with Coach Leach," Falk said. "He said, ‘I promise you, we'll give you an equal opportunity to compete for the job.' Really right there, looking in his eye, I knew he was telling me the truth and he stayed true to his word. I got equal reps and equal opportunity."

Falk arrived in the same class as Tyler Bruggman, the country's No. 22-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2013, but largely outplayed him during the spring. His emergence played a role in Bruggman's decision to transfer in July, leaving Falk as the primary backup to Connor Halliday after last year's No. 2, Austin Apodaca, also transferred in February. Shortly before the season began -- more than three years after Florida State offered -- Falk was put on scholarship.

He'd have preferred that his opportunity for playing time came under different circumstances, but once Halliday, WSU's all-time leading passer, was lost for the season with a broken ankle on Nov. 1, Falk stepped in without any noticeable drop-off.

That came as no surprise to Leach, who'd seen enough in practice to expect as much.

"I thought he definitely would [succeed right away]," Leach said. "We saw that in camp, but then I also think that mentally he was probably further along than we expected even."

In that department, Leach said Falk stacks up well against the long list of high-profile quarterbacks to play in his system.

"As far as being calm and taking the reigns of things, he might be ahead of all of them," Leach said. "He's way up there with that."

Color Oregon State coach Mike Riley impressed, as well. The Beavers had no answers as Falk played his way to Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

"I thought he was really poised and very, very sharp," Riley said. "He got the ball out of his hands quickly so his reads were decisive and he put the ball in a great location. Very efficient. I thought he ran their offense really, really well for a guy that hadn't played too much."

Leach stopped short of calling Falk the Cougars' starting quarterback of the future, citing other talented players in the program, but if one start is any indication of what's the come, the Cougars have no reason to worry.