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New UTEP football player overcomes the odds to play football again

New UTEP football player overcomes the odds to play football again

Luke Laufenberg faced an obstacle off the field that changed his life and nearly kept him off the football field forever.

"Once I got the diagnosis, I was obviously devastated. My whole life basically turned upside down," Laufenberg said.

Laufenberg was playing football at Mesa Community College during the 2017 season. He started December 2017 in his last football game of the season and ended the month in a hospital bed diagnosed with cancer.

"I knew something was obviously severely wrong," he said. "I had been in the hospital for pretty close to two weeks with uncontrollable pain. I assumed it was something bad. Obviously, I would hear 'cancer' and would never expect it to happen to me."

Laufenberg was diagnosed with Burkitt ;leukemia, a rare and fast-growing blood cancer. Doctors told him he'd need eight rounds of chemotherapy.

"I went from about 240 pounds of pretty good weight to 155 pounds in about a month. So, looking in the mirror, I was a totally different person, no hair, all that," Laufenberg said.

He ultimately needed just six rounds of chemotherapy before getting news the cancer was gone in early May 2018.

"Once I got the news, I was relieved, but at the same time, it's kind of odd because some people don't get that news," he said. "I just happened to be really fortunate."

His body took the hit, but his dreams of going back to football did not. Laufenberg spent the rest of the year getting bigger and stronger. UTEP called and gave him his shot at the next chapter.

"He's just athletic. He runs really well, he's got a great physique and he looks good in his uniform," UTEP head coach Dana Dimel said. "I love his leadership he's already bringing to the program."

Laufenberg's first game since December 2017 will be playing as a tight end in a UTEP uniform this fall.

"It definitely showed me that, for a period of time, you can really do anything you put your mind to," he said.

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