Catching Up with Mike Luckie
It was national news in the winter of 1995 when the Luckies—Miles, an offensive lineman, and linebackers Dustin and Mike—out of Clarkston High School signed with Georgia, becoming the first set of triplets to earn scholarships to the same I-A football program.
The triplets seemed inseparable and were even called by some as a “package deal,” whereby supposedly the Bulldogs especially wanted one of the triplets, therefore they signed all three, although each of the Luckies had earned honorable mention all-state honors in their own right.
Mike Luckie had arguably the best start to a Georgia career of the three, but then wrist injuries sidelined him for much of his sophomore and junior seasons. Still, what’s intriguing about Mike is he was the Luckie who broke away from the “inseparable” trio.
For an increase in playing time, he moved 500 miles north to play for James Madison University where, in his one season with the Dukes, he made First Team All-Atlantic 10, All-ECAC Division I-AA, First Team All-State (Virginia Assoc. of SIDs), and All-Roanoke Times and World News. More so, whereas at Georgia, he was recognized as part of the Luckie triplets, at James Madison, he was simply regarded as Mike, carving his own niche.
UGASports recently caught up with Mike Luckie from his home in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.
UGASports: While you and your two brothers were being recruited to play college ball, were you guys planning on attending the same school?
Mike Luckie: “Well, I think the idea that we were going to stay together was something a lot of people kind of thought. And, the term that used to annoy me was that we were a ‘package deal.’ But, if you look at it, none of us were like what would be a five-star guy coming out of high school. So, I’ve thought before, why would a school, especially a big-time program like the University of Georgia, offer a ‘package deal,’ where it is having to give up two additional scholarships [for one desired signee]? But, that’s an example of one of the things we had to deal with as triplets.”
UGASports: Why did you ultimately decide to sign with Georgia?
Mike Luckie: “It came down to Georgia and Clemson. But, when you go on campus at Georgia—being there, being in Athens—there cannot be a better college town. We were kind of sold from the beginning. At some point, we went to a prospect camp, and then committed to the school after that.”
UGASports: While you and your brothers were at Georgia, there were stories of how you three were inseparable, sharing an apartment, the same car, etc. Was that true?
Mike Luckie: “We all shared an apartment for a couple of years, and then [Marcus] Stroud was our roommate. But, actually, the last two years I was there, I lived with my girlfriend at the time. But, we were then, and remain, each other’s best friends. We’re all still really tight. We talk a couple of times a day.”
UGASports: So, after being recruited by head coach Ray Goff, and redshirted in 1995, Jim Donnan becomes Georgia’s head coach in 1996. What was the transition like from Goff to Donnan?
Mike Luckie: “Coach Goff was a good man. With Coach Donnan, it was a little different at first because he had actually recruited us at Marshall when he was the head coach there, and our brother had played at Marshall (linebacker Nick McKnight, 1986-1988, Honorable Mention All-American in 1988). As far as how the culture of the program changed—the tempo of practice, routines, how demanding things were—there wasn’t too big of a transition, pretty much all the same. The biggest difference was the assistant coaches—and essentially all of us had a new position coach with the head-coaching change.”
UGASports: As a redshirt freshman in 1996, you saw significant playing time. In fact, you became the first Luckie triplet to start a game at Georgia.
Mike Luckie: “Yeah, I had some pretty good games as a redshirt freshman, and I started against Kentucky at middle linebacker. It was probably one of my better years playing football before I started getting hurt.”
UGASports: You also were the only Luckie at Georgia to score, intercepting a pass against Miss. State as a sophomore in 1997 and returning it for a touchdown. However, you mentioned getting hurt. What happened, and when?
Mike Luckie: “In practice during the ’97 season, we were in a goal-line drill when I was second-team behind Bright (linebacker Greg Bright). The offense ran a sweep towards the wall (the wall that surrounded the old practice field), and I couldn’t slow down. So, I padded myself against the wall, and I broke my wrist. It was really painful. They would hard-cast me up before games and practices, but it wasn’t the same. The next year, I did the exact same thing but broke my other wrist. That season, ‘Shed’ (linebacker Adrian Hollingshed) came in and did really well. It was kind of hard for me to miss half the season, and then I’m planted in to play as a reserve. I only played sparingly, which I totally understood. But, I got a lot of joy out of watching Miles and Dustin play well (each started in 1998). For me, I just wish it would’ve ended up a little bit differently at Georgia. I wish I could have stayed healthy.”
UGASports: But, it would end well for you—but at somewhere else, right?
Mike Luckie: “Yes, after spring practice of my senior year, I found out I was going to be rotated that season, and it just didn’t sit well with me. Coach [Mickey] Matthews, who had been my position coach my redshirt freshman and sophomore years, had gotten the head coaching job at James Madison. We always had a great relationship. He told me that if I came up there to James Madison and played my last year under him, I then could go to graduate school and finish up as a G.A. (graduate assistant). I decided going to James Madison would be the best decision for me. There, I would have the opportunity not only to play, but to go to graduate school too.”
UGASports: It must have been tough leaving Dustin and Miles, who remained at Georgia and played their senior seasons of 1999—right?
Mike Luckie: “It was tough. I had always been with my brothers, always been close. But I thought to breakaway would be the best decision for me. Still, I got down. It was a new situation and I didn’t know anyone at first. But, I think it made me a stronger person—kind of toughened me up a lot, and ultimately was good for me. I had a great time at Georgia, but that’s where I was part of the Luckie triplets. At James Madison, I was able to carve my own niche—I was Mike.”
UGASports: And, you wound up having a great senior season at James Madison.
Mike Luckie: “You know, it’s funny, but JMU had won just three games the year before (1998). And, when I was going through the process of getting released from Georgia, a coach asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, why in the world would you want to go get your head beat in at a little school that won only three games last year?’ But, it just felt right to me. And, that team that just won three games the year before, won the conference championship (Atlantic 10) in 1999, and appeared in the I-AA playoffs. And, yeah, I made some all-star teams. It was great—a phenomenal time.”
UGASports: To you, what was the biggest difference between playing I-AA football compared to I-A?
Mike Luckie: “First off, I’d say a lot of kids at the I-AA level can play with I-A programs. With some skill position players, there’s a little bit of a drop-off, but the talent is definitely there at I-AA. A lot of kids in high school get missed, especially back when I played, and play I-AA but could’ve gotten significant time at the upper level. However, there is certainly a difference in the depth between the two levels. Team depth is probably the biggest difference between I-A and I-AA football.”
UGASports: You had such a good senior season at JMU, didn’t NFL scouts want to try you out?
Mike Luckie: “Yes, pro scouts came to JMU and wanted to run me and Curtis Keaton (tailback, 1999 A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, 4th round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals). But, I was damaged goods and decided not to chase any pipe dreams. I didn’t follow up with the scouts. I was a G.A. for a year at JMU, and had the opportunity to stay on and coach, but I wanted to get back down towards Atlanta. I actually wound up going to a career fair at UGA, where I spoke with some people from Philip Morris, and I eventually got a job with them as a Territory Manager.”
UGASports: What have you been doing professionally since then?
Mike Luckie: “After having primarily worked in medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales, I currently work for AbbVie in Biotech sales. I live in Peachtree Corners.”
UGASports: What about your family?
Mike Luckie: “I’ve known my wife, Hillary, for 19 years, and we’ve been married for 15. When I took the job with Philip Morris, I met her at the sales training. She was working in New York at the lower Manhattan district. We have three boys. Our son, Lawson, is a tight end for Norcross High School and actually started several varsity games as a freshman last year after he came back from an elbow injury. He should have a promising 2020 season—if there is a season.”
UGASports: What’s your opinion of the current state of UGA football, especially since you played with head coach Kirby Smart?
Mike Luckie: “Yes, the three of us came in at Georgia the year after Kirby. I was happy for him when he was named our head coach. It was deserving. When I played with him, Kirby was a really smart guy. Even when he was playing, you could tell he had coaching in his blood. For example, he rarely busted an assignment but could tell others when they busted their assignment. He was built for it (coaching). Although we don’t get back as much [for games] because we’re rather involved with our kids, I follow the Dogs, and the recruiting and all. Honestly, I think Georgia just needed some more pieces before Kirby got there. In time, the program got those pieces under Kirby, and, since then, it’s been exciting to see what Georgia can do each season.”