As this past football season began to wind down, Jake Luton took in each moment as the last in his collegiate career.
He went through senior day with his fellow teammates who were playing their final games in an Oregon State uniform before the kickoff of the Civil War against Oregon.
But Luton, who missed the final eight games of his redshirt junior year in 2017 with a thoracic spine fracture suffered at Washington State, petitioned the NCAA to get that year of eligibility back.
In early January, Luton learned he would be able to play one more season.
After some thought, Luton decided staying at Oregon State was the right decision, one he never really anticipated having the opportunity to make.
“I think having the opportunity to come back to Oregon State just made the most sense,” he said last Wednesday.
Being back with the Beavers means for the first time since high school Luton will be able to spend a second straight season in the same system.
“I think that’s huge for anyone, but for a quarterback especially,” he said. “That also played into getting to come back for a sixth year (was) being able to put two years together in the same system to get more confident. I’m really excited for that.”
Luton has played in 12 games with the Beavers and has completed 223 of 359 passes for 2,513 yards and 14 touchdowns.
After recovering from his injury in 2017, Luton won the quarterback battle in fall camp last season, the first under coach Jonathan Smith. He left after the first series at Ohio State with a concussion, and then injured his ankle two games later at Nevada.
Luton led a second-half comeback in Week 8 as the Beavers overcame a 31-3 deficit to stun the Buffaloes, 41-34, in overtime. He went 28 of 39 for 310 yards and tossed three touchdowns in the final two periods and overtime.
“I thought he did a lot of good things down the stretch, obviously in the Colorado game,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “He took our passing game kind of to another level there. I feel like talking to him in the offseason he felt like there was still room for growth and for him to develop.”
Luton said his approach has changed since learning he has another season to play.
“It’s kind of a different point of view because I felt the end, I felt what it was like to be done and so to kind of have another go around and another shot at it, there’s things I’m doing differently already in just the first month back where before I wasn’t doing that,” he said.
Luton said he is taking more accountability and wants to expand his leadership role.
Receiver Isaiah Hodgins said having Luton back is good for the Beavers’ offense. He said it’s reassuring for everyone “knowing we have someone who was there last year and has proved himself. He is comfortable with us and we’re comfortable with him and I feel like that can help with our offense.”
Luton isn't guaranteed to be the starter by any stretch and he is just fine competing with the likes of Nebraska transfer Tristan Gebbia, Nick Moore and others who want to take the reins.
“We want the best talent around us so I’m excited to have Tristan and Nick Moore and all those guys coming and competing because I’m going to make them better and they are going to make me better at the end of the day,” Luton said.
While Luton has been plagued by the injury bug, he is hopeful those days are over.
“This is the best I’ve felt in recent memory, to be honest, ever since I’ve been to Oregon State,” he said. “I feel strong, I feel healthy and being in the weight room with (strength and conditioning) coach (Mike McDonald) is getting me more and more strong. I’m in the best state of mind and physical state I’ve been in in a long time.”
Regardless of who eventually plays quarterback, they will have plenty of weapons around then to put points on the board.
“Without a doubt we have a lot of talented players around me,” Luton said. “The skill position guys are, I think, some of the best in the country. Our wide receiver corps. and our running backs and tight ends, so to have those weapons around me were really something to look forward to when deciding to come back for a sixth year.”