ARLINGTON, Texas — For rookie running back/fullback Hunter Luepke, coming into year one, the mentality was simply to do what was asked of him in order to fight for practice squad spot – and if he was lucky, an active roster spot.
That work ethic in training camp and in the preseason culminated with Luepke making the cut after a huge preseason finale against Las Vegas that saw him account for 118 scrimmage yards and one touchdown which put him in the running back room with Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn going into the 2023 season.
Through three games, his number got called in bunches to provide help in protection and for the occasional short-yardage rushing opportunity. However, when Rico Dowdle exited week four's matchup against New England with a hip injury, his role increased to having the opportunity to punch in his first NFL touchdown.
"Had a guy go down and I had an opportunity to go up," Luepke said. "Coach called me up, told me to do the stuff that I've been doing in all of fall camp and trust the process and whenever my time is called, I have to perform."
And perform, he did. On a third-and-goal – with the offense facing criticism with its inability to punch it into the end zone while in the red zone – Luepke took a handoff and barreled in for a touchdown. What happened afterward was pure jubilation for the rookie ball-carrier.
"I was pretty excited," he said. "I spiked that thing, gave a little flex. Thankfully, Dak grabbed the ball for me. It was exciting. There was just excitement everywhere. I was kind of oblivious to everything going on around me afterward."
The first touchdown is yet another notch in Luepke's early accomplishments as a member of the Cowboys, but he's remaining even keeled with more responsibilities bound to stack up on his plate.
"I'm just trying to capitalize on all of the opportunities I get," he said. "Whether that's at fullback, inline h-back stuff or at running back like it was [Sunday]. Just trying to do my best to help this team win."