Colby College junior Luke Duncklee had no idea how long the leg injury he sustained in the third quarter of his first football game last September would plague him.

Turns out, quite a while.

After an outstanding freshman year, Duncklee missed the rest of his sophomore season after breaking a bone in his lower left leg against Williams College. To that point, he had thrown a 40-yard touchdown pass and caught eight passes for 66 yards.

Head coach Jonathan Michaeles hopes that same player will suit up for the season opener, at home against Williams on Sept. 21. But Duncklee has still not fully recovered.

“I’m not 100 percent quite yet,” he said. “But I’m definitely going to be ready for the first game.”

Duncklee played center field for the school’s baseball team last spring but suffered a relapse late in the season and sought a second opinion. A bone abnormality on his left heel was discovered to be rubbing on his Achilles tendon. He was given a choice of surgery or rehabilitation and chose the latter. He’s been working to get back ever since, including while serving a 10-week internship at a real estate company in New York City this summer.

“Last fall was really tough on me,” Duncklee said. “I never missed a game with any other sports growing up. It definitely made appreciated it a lot more, realizing I only have a couple of years left. It’s lit a new fire under me.”

Michaeles was an assistant at Colby when Duncklee arrived on campus after cementing his reputation as a playmaker his senior year at Cony when he ran for over 1,000 yards and passed for another 1,500. It didn’t take the Colby coaching staff long to realize what it had.

“It was clear to us we had one of the better football players in the league,” Michaeles said.

MIchaeles plans on using Duncklee primarily as a wide receiver, but he’ll also line up in the slot, on the wing and in the backfield.

“I’m going to be all over the place,” Duncklee said.

At 200 pounds, the 6-foot Duncklee is 25 pounds heavier than when he arrived on campus and much stronger.

“My body feels a lot more powerful,” he said. “I’m able to take a lot of hits a lot easier.”

With just five seniors, the Mules are still young, but both Duncklee and Michaeles are optimistic. Sophomore quarterback Justin Ciero returns for a second year as a starter and led the team in rushing, and the offensive line returns four starters. The linebacking corps, led by Henry Nelson, and the secondary, led by safety and co-captain Danny Maddox, are team strengths.

“Our defense is great right now and the offense is coming around,” said Duncklee, who participated in preseason camp. “We have a very athletic quarterback. He’s improved immensely.”

Michaeles is nearly as anxious for Duncklee’s return as Duncklee is, but he’s tempering that with a coach’s eye toward the future.

“He’s a competitive kid and he wants to be out there,” he said. “We’re trying to keep our focus on the big picture.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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