A year ago this week, a high school senior from Sharon Springs collapsed on his home turf during a football game against Otis Bison. Luke Schemm was just weeks from his 18th birthday when he was taken off life support shortly after.
One year after his death, Luke’s family says they have found a way to keep Luke’s spirit alive.
“To me, Luke brought a lot of light to a lot of people,” David Schemm, Luke’s father.
“Sometimes there’s not a word or the right word to say but it’s just being there or an ‘I’m sorry,’ and that’s really all you can say,” said Lisa Schemm, Luke’s mother.
For Luke’s coach, there aren’t enough words to describe the impact he made on his community.
Just a phenomenal kid; a kid you want on your program,” said Jeff Hennick, the Wallace County Wildcats head football coach. “Every program wants that kind of guy.”
Luke was known in the community by everyone as a star athlete in each sport he played, including track and basketball. But in football, he was an all-state running back and linebacker with the speed to do whatever he wanted on the field.
“When he hit you, you knew it,” Hennick said. “Anytime he touched that ball, he just had that sense about him that he was gonna break it.”
But sports weren’t his only focus. Luke and his older brother Clay were both third-generation valedictorians at Wallace County High School, and he had plans to study grain science and milling at Kansas State University.
In fact, Luke had talked about coming back to Wallace County after school and selling his family crop to bakeries, David told KSN.
“To me, Luke brought a lot of light to a lot of people.”
– David Schemm, Luke’s father
“He would leave practice here and a lot of times during fall harvest he would go home and he would go to work,” Hennick said.
A year later, Coach Hennick still visits Luke’s grave before every single game.
“Nothing had ever crossed my mind that I might lose him,” he said.
Now, Hennick takes nothing for granted.
“First thing it taught me was to tell these boys how much I love them,” he said. “You know, I’m hard on them. I chew their rear, I demand perfection out of them, but at the same day when we step off of the field I want them to know that I love them. I want them to know that no matter what hardships they go through, I’ll be there to go through it with them.”
It was on his home turf where Luke played what some say was the best game of his life.
“You know, he scored a lot of touchdowns for some previous games but it was like, it was like he had someone with him that night,” Hennick said.
Luke collapsed after scoring one final touchdown and a strong two point conversion.
“[He] comes to the sideline and slapped my hand and the last thing he ever said to me was, ‘Coach’ and I caught him and he went to be in a better place,” Hennick said.
There was a lot of speculation over just what caused Luke’s death. The Schemms say they’ve heard incorrect reports that it was a second impact, implying that Luke had been hit before in the season and that it had taken a toll on him.
“Just a phenomenal kid; a kid you want on your program,” said Jeff Hennick, Wallace County Wildcats head football coach. “Every program wants that kind of guy.”
“The final report came back that, no, it was a single impact,” David said. “It was not a second impact. It was not because of a previous concussion. It was a single impact.”
The Schemms waited six months for those autopsy results.
“It’s a freak instance,” David said.
The memory of that night is still so strong for Lisa that she doesn’t sit in the stands at Wallace County home games.
She was at the game while Luke was away on business. Because the game was being broadcast live, she said all of a sudden, everyone from David to her parents in Texas wanted to know what happened.
“Everybody was wanting answers, and I didn’t have any answers yet,” she said.
After Luke collapsed, an ambulance took him to a neighboring town where he was put on a helicopter and taken to a Denver-area hospital. That process alone took several hours.
After making it to Denver and learning the news, David had a question for the neurosurgeon: “‘If the football field would have been across the street from the hospital, what could you have done?’ and his answer was ‘nothing.’”
But Luke’s death hasn’t changed their opinion on football.
“When there are opportunities to increase the safety of [football] do it,” David said. “I mean, that’s just by default. Of course, you want to do that.”
Both Luke and Clay were given custom helmets that were re-certified every year, Lisa said. Luke even chose to wear a cowboy collar to protect his neck.They took every precaution when it came to the sport, she said. But, they still wouldn’t take it back.
“If I denied him all those opportunities because I’m scared of the risk then he wouldn’t have been Luke. What made him so precious to us was that he was ready to engage life,” David said.
While knowing that has given the Schemms some comfort, it’s in the community where they’ve found support.
The Schemms received letters, cards, and financial donations from around the country, even as far as Germany.
Instead of using the money for Luke’s services, the Schemms wanted to see their son live on through his peers.
That includes Ryan Janitell, now a freshman at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Jaiden Childers, one of Luke’s best friends.
“He sure did [leave] one heck of an impact to live up to in 17 years,” Janitell said.
“I really looked up to him, I guess you could say,” said Childers.
Both Janitell and Childers are recipients of the “Luke Schemm – Live the Legacy” scholarship. The money they received went towards paying for their books at school.
“They understood that while they continue their journey through life that they’ve gotta remember it’s about impacting other people around them,” David said.
The Schemms set aside $5,500 and awarded that money to six seniors. After sending the application out to area schools, they received around 60 applicants.
“It’s also obvious to us, with all the letters we received and even with the applicants, the impact that he had beyond the school,” David said.
But the recipients weren’t chosen based on grades or test scores. Instead, they had to answer the question, ‘What does it mean to live a legacy or leave a legacy?’
For Janitell and Childers that question was easy.
“Do everything to the fullest, give it your all and even when you’re not sure if you’re doing the right thing, believe in yourself because you’re doing the right thing,” Childers said.
“You leave a legacy no matter what you do,” said Janitell. “But you can impact through good or through bad and your legacy depends on that.”
As for the Schemms, Luke “brought light to people and he tried to inspire people to be better than what they are as he tried to be better than what he was.”
That’s what they believe it means to live and leave a legacy.
The Schemm family tells KSN they’re still receiving donations for the “Luke Schemm – Live the Legacy” scholarship and they hope to continue to see future students succeed in living out their son’s legacy.
Luke Schemm Scholarship
Click here to find out more about the scholarship and making a donation
KSN.com stories on Luke Schemm
- Funeral for Luke Schemm held in Sharon Springs
- Western Kansas honors Luke Schemm, team before playoff-game victory
- Wallace County comes together to mourn star football player
- Wallace County football player’s last game
- Neighbors support Schemm family through fall harvest