Tracy pair find football opportunity at Iowa college
by Sam Matthews
Jul 27, 2014 | 3370 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Luke Pulliam (left) and Damon Stroup already sport Luther College Norse T-shirts as they prepare to enroll in the liberal arts college in northeast Iowa, where they hope to play for the Norse football team.  Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
Luke Pulliam (left) and Damon Stroup already sport Luther College Norse T-shirts as they prepare to enroll in the liberal arts college in northeast Iowa, where they hope to play for the Norse football team. Sam Matthews/Tracy Press
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Two recent Tracy High graduates who grew up on the same block in the Glenbriar Estates subdivision in south Tracy and played on the same Bulldogs football teams are sticking together as they enter their first year of college.

The unusual aspect of their plans is that the college they will be attending is in Decorah, Iowa.

Decorah, a small city in northeast Iowa, is the home of Luther College, a small liberal arts college with a solid academic reputation — and also a Division III football team.

Ambitions to play for that team, The Norse, initially drew Damon Stroup and Luke Pulliam to Luther College. But they have also been impressed with the highly ranked academic programs offered by a college with an enrollment of 2,600.

Both Stroup and Pulliam felt they had little chance of playing with Division I football teams, which dominate college football on the West Coast. Not for lack of ability, but because of their size.

“You don’t see many 5-10, 185-pound quarterbacks playing for USC,” said Stroup, who quarterbacked Tracy High to a 10-2 record last season.

Pulliam was a 165-pound defensive back on the league championship team.

And with the demise of football programs at smaller schools in Northern California, such as Pacific, Santa Clara, St. Mary’s and San Francisco State, there are only a few colleges, mostly in Southern California, with Division III programs.

Division III teams are composed of players without athletic scholarships. The schools do offer academic grants and other incentives to attend, however. Grants will help the Tracy duo pay for tuition and other costs.

Pulliam and Stroup are not walk-ons. They were contacted by the Luther College coaching staff, who knew Tracy High used the same offenses — the “mid-line option” and “the veer” — as their Division III team.

Both Tracy youths visited the Luther campus in recent months. They liked what they saw — and what they heard about the football program and academics. Both plan to be business management majors.

Luther teams compete in the Iowa Interscholastic Conference against colleges of similar size. And Luther is among a minority of small liberal arts colleges with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national scholastic honor society signifying top-tier academic standing.

Stroup and Pulliam plan to leave for Iowa in mid-August.

“We will be staying in one of the Luther dorms,” Pulliam said. “When I visited there, I was impressed with the campus and facilities — and yes, we’ll get used to the snow.”

The college was founded in 1869 by Norwegian immigrants, but the student body is much more diverse these days.

Two longtime friends from the same block in the same town in the Central Valley of California will soon add to that diversity.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email shm@tracypress.com.

 
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