BETHANY - While most athletes participating in Sunday's 67th-annual Rudy Mumley Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Football Charity Classic are playing for state bragging rights or the chance to end their high school careers with a big game, Steubenville Big Red linebacker Leshawn Luke is playing with an added incentive.
"I'm going to play this one for my man Lee (West)," said Luke of his friend, a Big Red freshman who passed away in January. "I'm wearing his number.
"It makes me want to play better because Lee was so young, but he was a competitor. No matter who he played with all he did was compete.
"I feel like wearing his number is going to help me compete as well as he would."
Luke counts himself lucky to be able to play in this game and looks forward to competing with other top players form the conference.
"It feels good being with guys from the same conference, competing on the same team against the guys from West Virginia," said Luke.
One of the players that stands out to the 5-foot-7, 200-pound Luke is a player expected to tote the ball for the Buckeyes offense.
"I like Josten Dear because lately at practice he's been looking real good," said Luke. "He's a nice shifty runner. He doesn't look as shifty as he really is until you go against him in person."
Luke is aware the Mountaineers have won the past two OVAC games, and doesn't have any plans to allow the third to come on his watch.
"We most definitely are going to end it this year," said Big Red's 2011 team MVP. "I've never lost to a West Virginia team and I don't want to ever lose to one. We're going to bring this back to Ohio.
"That's what I aim to do. Go out with a win, make some big plays, and bring the game back to Ohio."
Luke had 112 tackles and an interception defensively his senior year while adding 567 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on offense. In the fall he plans play college ball at Mount Union.
"I'm real excited," he said. "There are a couple kids on the team going too. There's another linebacker going and we'll play together. This basically gives me a good start so I'm already used to hitting when I go there.
"Being able to play in a system like that is awesome."
A system that holds at least one similarity to the one he's used to in Steubenville.
"I feel like it's kind of the same because I'm used to winning at Big Red and that's what they do at Mount Union," said Luke.