NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It didn't take Cole Luke long to acclimate to life on the college football field. The freshman cornerback came to Notre Dame with high recruiting rankings and was seeing reps in the secondary with regularity early in his first fall training camp in August. You might say it was to be expected - sort of.
"I kind of expected it - well not really," Luke said when asked about his early rise up the depth chart. "But if I played within my nature and my regular self I knew that it'll come."
"It just kind of came out of the ordinary," said Luke of his learning curve. "I would say once I got the game plan down and all the technique and all that stuff down and once I could get it in my nature I was pretty good."
Luke has been Notre Dame's primary nickel back since the season began back on Aug. 31. He has played every game in that capacity while also getting more action in recent games spelling starting Irish cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson. Luke says the difference between playing true corner and nickel is subtle.
"Instead of corner you usually have just like a one-way go," Luke began. "But (with) nickel you kind of have it both ways, so it's kind of more field to cover, but it's nothing new.
If the transition Luke has seemingly easily made to playing in college seem innate, there is a reason. Luke's mother, Monica Luke, is the sister of Dallas Cowboys great Darren Woodson, who played linebacker at Arizona State before going on to become the Cowboys' all-time leader in tackles as a safety. Woodson had a big impact on teaching Luke defensive concepts.
"I would say most of it has to contribute to my uncle," Luke said. "He helped me out with the fundamental stuff and then the other half I guess I just learned in high school - I just learned myself and taught myself basic stuff."
Luke has also taken to watching much more game film in college than he did in high school. He got that advice early on from veteran Irish players.
"That's the thing that they hammer on the head," said Luke. "Because watching film basically gives you the game, so it can help you out a lot."
While Woodson starred for this week's Notre Dame opponent, Arizona State, and while Luke grew up not far from Tempe, ASU was never really a consideration for the Arizona native. Texas and Oklahoma were two early front-runners for Luke coming out of high school and Woodson helped his nephew make his college choice as well.
"I just kind of realized it's not all about football," Luke said of choosing Notre Dame. "It's about what can help you out later on in life. Obviously, Notre Dame is that kind of place."
Luke was on hand for three Notre Dame games last year, including the win over Oklahoma in Norman, so he got to see plenty of Fighting Irish wins up close. Notre Dame's 12-0 regular season and ultimate spot in the BCS Championship Game had little impact on Luke's ultimate choice of school though.
"Winning didn't have that much to do with it," Luke said of last year's influence on his decision. "But I always wanted to go to a winning program. As far as winning goes, whether they're 0-2 or 2-0 doesn't really matter at that point."
Like Fighting Irish running back Amir Carlisle, Luke wore jersey No. 3 during fall training camp. However, he switched to No. 36 just before the season began when the two ended-up on some special teams units together. Luke's number now gets picked on with some frequency by opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks who know No. 36 is "the freshman" on the field.
"It's good and bad," Luke said of seeing more balls come his way. "If I was an offensive coordinator I would go after the freshman too. Coming out of high school, they never threw to my side, but now I kind of like it, because it's more opportunity to play the ball and make plays."
Luke has three tackles with a pass breakup through five games. He has had more success than failure so far and looks for more as his young career continues to blossom.
"I would say just hard work and dedication can pretty much get me wherever I want to go," said Luke when asked what he has learned about himself since arriving at Notre Dame. "It's just all about determination and how far you put yourself out there."
Putting himself out there is not a problem for Cole Luke.