He and Tracy High graduate Tim Celestine, now a senior wide receiver at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., started a series of informal sessions for youth players. That grew into a regular workout, The Football University, that draws as many as 50 players each weekend to Tracy Ball Park on Bessie Avenue.
Participants play for local youth teams, including the Cougars, Junior Bulldogs and Panther Youth Football, and high school teams, including Kimball, West, Tracy and St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Luera, Celestine and other volunteer coaches run kids through drills designed to build speed and strength and, most of all, give them an understanding of the game that they hope will impress coaches.
“Every kid wants to run the ball, hold the ball and catch the ball,” Luera said. “At that level they’re not getting it, and the parents are paying $400 to $500, and their kids aren’t playing. I think that’s unfair.”
Luera, 35, is a Tracy High graduate who did not play high school football because of grades. He overcame dyslexia after high school while in the Army and never lost his love for the game. Celestine, a 2008 graduate of Tracy High, was unable to attend the most recent Sunday session because of a commitment to another camp.
While coaching for the Cougars, Luera worried that kids would get discouraged if they never got to play in the skilled positions.
“I teach them how to be a running back, fullback, receiver, linebacker, all the skilled positions,” he said. “You may not be the best athlete, or may not have the best body type, or he’s not the prototypical running back or quarterback, but this kid knows how to throw and knows how to read the offense.
“They go in there and they excel.”
Corey Norwood, whose son Alonzo plays for the Cougars, is one of the volunteer coaches.
“It’s something I had to do. This is where it starts, with the youth,” he said, adding that when youth football practices start in mid-July, his son will be a step ahead of other kids on the team. “That’s what it’s all about, getting these kids conditioned.”
As The Football University grew, Luera turned it into a business, officially named TFBU Sports. A fee of $40 per player per month is goes back into equipment, and he still relies on volunteer coaches.
“Everybody out here is a volunteer,” Luera said. “You either love it or you don’t.”