Column: Like father, like son? Michael Luckhurst follows own path

Former NFL kicker Mick Luckhurst with youngest son Michael, a quarterback and kicker at Bishop Diego High in Santa Barbara.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Whether sitting or standing atop La Playa Stadium, the view here of Leadbetter Beach is one of those invigorating moments that sends your mind and body into relaxation mode. You can feel the cool breeze bouncing off palm trees and see waves splashing against the sand.

For Mick Luckhurst, this stadium on the campus of Santa Barbara City College has been serving as a seven-year playground whenever Bishop Diego has a home game and one of his three boys is in action.

The last of the Luckhurst children, Michael, is a 6-foot-3, red-headed senior quarterback/kicker who still hasn’t adopted his father’s British accent. The sons only make fun of it behind his back, though not too loudly, for he has been their kicking coach, and you know father/coaches only tolerate so much, especially after a missed field goal.


“Everyone secretly loves it,” Michael confessed.

Except this is a story about how much fun can be experienced when a father and son know the parameters of the sports experiment and unite through the good and bad times knowing the memories and experiences will be cherished forever.

One of the greatest traditions of “Friday Night Lights” is seeing the bond between father and son, before the game, during the game and after the game. The raw feelings felt, good and bad, can’t be duplicated. These are the times lessons are learned and relationships strengthened or weakened.

For Mick, born in England, educated in Berkeley and hardened as an NFL kicker for the Atlanta Falcons from 1981-87, the opportunity to offer his children the choice of playing sports or not has been part of his faith.

“I facilitated, but they had to make it happen,” he said.

There was only one rule. “Once you start, you can’t quit,” Mick said. “You don’t have to start, but if you do, you’re going to do it until the end.”

His three sons grew up in Santa Barbara and all played whatever sports they wanted. Father and mother, Ruth, built a 40-yard synthetic field in the backyard, complete with goal posts.

In the end, soccer and kicking became their passion at Bishop Diego. Jack made Arizona State as a walk-on kicker until transferring to South Carolina this year. Adam is a soccer player at South Carolina. And Michael is Bishop Diego’s three-sport star athlete — he also plays soccer and volleyball — in this final year of high school.


Observing the relationship from afar has been Bishop Diego football coach Tom Crawford, who had Mick serve as an assistant coach for the last seven years.

“Mick has encouraged the boys to find their niche, what they want to do, and make it their own,” Crawford said. “He’s such a wonderful coach and has a wonderful perspective that he’s a coach and dad at the same time. He shows firm love at times but done in a way that he’s sharing knowledge and experience and improving them.

“I let all the coaches talk at end [of games] and I always save Mick for last. There’s always a tidbit, a story, a pearl of wisdom he has. He just brings a great perspective on the elements between continuing to push kids and making them work but enjoying the experience at the same time.”

Mick’s family record of a 55-yard field goal could be in jeopardy. Michael attempted a 60-yarder last month that was long enough but went wide.

Michael and Jack both have had hip surgeries to correct a congenital condition. Michael has the house and backyard pretty much to himself with his brothers in South Carolina, and that isn’t as fun as you might think.

“It’s kind of sad. I don’t have people to play with outside,” he said.

The boys’ competitive fervor has been known to lift each other to higher achievements. One thing that won’t happen is Mick demonstrating his once-powerful kicking form. At 63, he’s leaving the kicking and any aches and pains to his sons.


“He comes out and coaches and sometimes kicks a couple, then won’t kick the next day for sure,” Michael said.

On Friday night, Bishop Diego improved to 2-0 with a 30-14 victory over Bakersfield Garces. Michael had touchdown passes of 49 and 30 yards and made a 27-yard field goal. Qu’ran Gossett rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns.

The last Luckhurst son is grateful to spend so much time with his father. “It’s awesome. He’s really cool,” Michael said.

Mick and his wife must have done something right. According to Mick, “Between themselves they never fought. I was youngest of four boys and got the snot beat out of me.”

Looking out Friday afternoon from a stadium he’s been going to since sixth grade, Michael said, “It’s awesome. Seeing that view … it’s pretty much the best view in California.”