Korol-ing the competition: Leading by example both on and off the field

Photo by Kyle Rodriguez
Photo by Kyle Rodriguez

Guelph, Ont. – Originally from Lynden, Ontario, Luke Korol is a linebacker and captain for the Guelph Gryphons football team. He is currently in his fifth and final year at Guelph and, as his on-field play is showing, he is not leaving the OUA quietly.

Currently, Korol is leading the OUA in tackles with more than 10 per game. He knows that as a linebacker, he’s going to see ample field time – helping to control both the run and pass – and he’s taking advantage of his opportunities. But it’s more than just having the chances to impact the game; it’s about the hard work that goes behind it.

Korol spends hours on the field and studying his game each week. He prepares for the opposing offence so he can translate that into making plays when it counts, because if there is one thing that is clear, Korol “wants to be involved in every tackle and be part of every play.”

A statement like that also requires great passion and dedication to the game; something Korol also expressed as a key part to his success, knowing that every time he takes the field, especially on game day, he’s going to leave everything he can out there and then that little bit more.

While football fans have watched the Guelph linebacker excel all season long, his personal highlight this year lies in the team’s big win against the Laurier Golden Hawks. Though the Gryphs were down at halftime, and facing an intimidating Laurier homecoming crowd, they stormed back and got the win – speaking to the never-quit character of the Gryphons team.

What that win showed is something that Korol also made clear – this season has not been just about him as an individual player, but rather the entire defence and team as a whole.

The Guelph Gryphons’ defence is among the conference’s best, but their success isn’t hidden in some secret sauce. In fact, Korol puts it down to just being “a bunch of guys who love the game, and have fun making plays.” He credits Guelph’s defensive coordinator, Adam Grandy, with preparing the team week after week, but also makes it clear that a lot of the group’s success comes from holding each other to a high standard, which helps everyone step up to the plate when the teams needs it most.

It’s tough to argue with the impact that Korol has had on the field, but it is his team-first attitude and humble demeanor that is often seen off of it. Whether it is crediting those around him for making plays or singing the praises of the talent across the OUA, he doesn’t put himself in the spotlight.

In fact, when asked to name a few of the toughest offensive players he has gone up against in Ontario, his response was simply that “there is so much talent in this league, that I wouldn’t feel right to leave certain people out of the conversation.”  And while the talent is as elite as they come in university football, perhaps that speaks all the more loudly to the success Korol has found in his position.

So what exactly has all of this on and off-field success meant to Korol during his five years at Guelph?

Above all else, he is a proud Gryphon. After recently playing in his fifth Guelph homecoming game, Korol explained why he finds it to be one of the best environments to play in and be a part of, “The alumni that show up are so passionate about this program, and create an environment that is truly special to be a part of.” On top of this, Luke makes it clear that the fans that show up to cheer the Gryphons on leave a long-lasting mark on each player and coach that has the opportunity to play in front of them. He has nothing but the best things to say about the entire Guelph community – from the fans to the alumni to the Parents of Players group (POP), and more.

And amongst this tight-knit, passionate group, Korol wants to be remembered as a great leader – one that was passionate about the game and dedicated to his team. “I hope that I have left an impact on each one of my teammates and that they see how fortunate they are to play this game,” explained the long-time Gryphon, thus helping to pass on what he, himself, has learned from previous captains and veterans.

Looking ahead to his future beyond the OUA, which he hopes includes at least a shot at the next level – a goal that he’s currently doing everything in his power to achieve – Korol can’t help but look back upon the last five years of his life at Guelph.

He attributes much of his success and development to the coaches, teammates, and community that have surrounded and supported him during his Guelph tenure. He has grown not only as an athlete, but as an individual who is ready to tackle the next challenges in life – whatever those may be – but, not without remembering and tipping his cap to all that came from his experience at Guelph; an experience that will surely stay with him for a long time.

“Being a Gryphon and being able to wear that uniform is something I will never forget.”

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