Former Tualatin and BYU back hopes he'll stick with NFL team

It feels good to be a football player again, Luke Staley says.

Staley, unlike Joey Harrington, did not get to play in the NFL as a rookie. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the Detroit Lions' training camp last August and underwent season-ending surgery.

The former Tualatin High running back went through drills at the Lions' minicamp last month, and his repaired right knee came out unscathed.

'I was quite surprised with how my knee felt and how it held up,' Staley says. 'My speed was very good. I thought (my game) was all there.'

He will attend the Lions' next minicamp at the end of April. Then the coaches will decide whether to keep or cut him.

If he is let go, it won't stop his pursuit of a spot in the NFL. His goal is to play five seasons, which would make him eligible for a pension.

'You have to persevere to make it,' says Staley, 6-1, 227 pounds. 'If one team doesn't want you, hopefully, there's another team that does.'

Staley, 22, left Brigham Young University after running for a school-record 1,596 yards and leading the nation with 28 touchdowns as a junior. He earned first-team All-American honors and won the prestigious Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back in 2001. NFL officials indicated he probably would be drafted in the second round. He had ankle surgery at the end of the season, though, and then his knee failed to pass tests at the NFL pre-draft combine.

When Detroit took him in the seventh round, his signing bonus went from an expected $100,000 to about $26,000.

Yet he has no regrets about turning pro.

'It's easy to look back and question it,' he says. 'I thought when I got to BYU from high school, if I had the opportunity to leave early I was going to do it.

'I had my mind made up, then I talked with my dad, not saying what I thought, but just talking about other players. He said, 'Why wouldn't you do it? You can always go back to school.' '

Staley and his wife, Heather, stayed in Detroit last season for his surgery, rehabilitation and team meetings. In January, he returned to Provo, Utah, to work on his health science degree at BYU.

He returns to Tualatin about once a year.

'I'm a wanderer,' he says. 'I don't know where I live.'

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