Iowa football’s matchup with Ohio State a homecoming for Luke Lachey

The sophomore tight end was a devout Buckeye fan and grew up going to games at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa tight end Luke Lachey (85) drives past Michigan defensive back R.J. Moten (6) during a football game between Iowa and No. 4 Michigan at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes, 27-14.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

Iowa football tight end Luke Lachey didn’t just grow up in Columbus, Ohio — he was raised as a devout Ohio State fan.

His father, Jim Lachey, played for Ohio State from 1981-85, garnering multiple All-America honors as an offensive tackle. Jim played 10 years in the NFL following his college career, then returned to Columbus to raise five children with his wife, Ann.

Jim also became Buckeye football’s radio color analyst. He’s been calling games alongside play-by-play announcer Paul Keels for 26 years.

“Growing up, it was awesome being around there in that atmosphere,” Luke said. “I didn’t really expect to play in there one day. I can think of so many times I was out there throwing the ball with my friends … to be able to go back and play there, it’ll be fun.”

The Lachey family holds Ohio State season tickets, and Luke can’t count how many games he’s been to at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. He said he’s been going to Buckeye games since he was six or seven years old, and he went to almost every home game up until he started taking recruiting visits in high school.

Luke attended a football camp at Ohio State during his recruitment but didn’t get a scholarship offer. That same week, Luke said, he booked a visit to Iowa. When deciding between schools, Luke said Iowa’s upset victory over Ohio State in 2017 made a big impact on him.

“That Iowa game really stuck out to me,” Lachey said. “They used their tight ends really well, with Noah Fant and T.J. [Hockenson], I believe, having two touchdowns that day, so it definitely stood out.”

RELATED: Clash in Columbus: Iowa football to face Ohio State for first time in five years

Although first-year tight ends coach Abdul Hodge didn’t recruit the Ohio product, he said Luke is a natural football player.

“Any time you can recruit a kid whose parents have played at the highest level — obviously his dad played at a Power Five school, he played in the NFL for 10-plus years, he’s a Pro-Bowler, All-American, so you know, coming from that background, growing up in that type of environment, you can kind of predict what type of kid he’s going to be,” Hodge said.

Now, Lachey is in his third year with the Iowa program. He’ll compete against his hometown team in “The ‘shoe” on Saturday. 

Although Luke is playing against the team he grew up rooting for, he’s no longer a fan of the Buckeyes. He said his loyalty switched to the Hawkeyes on the day he committed in 2019, as did his family’s.

“They’re all Hawkeyes right now, but obviously, they all grew up Ohio State,” Luke said. “It’ll all work out in the end, but we’re all Hawkeyes.”

Luke played just one game in his true freshman season in 2020 and ended up as a redshirt. But he’s grown into the Hawkeyes’ second-leading receiving leader with 157 yards on nine catches — sitting only behind fellow tight end Sam LaPorta.

“I think with Luke, his best ball is ahead of him,” Hodge said. “He’s getting better at a really fast pace. Obviously, having Sam in the room as a friend, as a mentor, has really, really helped his development. I think that’s the key here in any position group.”

Because Jim calls Ohio State games weekly, he hasn’t watched any of Luke’s collegiate football games in person. Ann, however, has been to every one of Luke’s games as a Hawkeye — except for the 2020 Illinois game. 

This Saturday, Jim will finally watch his son play on a collegiate stage in-person. While Luke is anticipating the visit to his hometown stadium, he recognizes his role with the Hawkeyes comes first.

“It means a lot for my dad to be up there calling the game,” Lachey said. “I think he’s really looking forward to it. I’m excited to go and play, but as coach Hodge said, it is a business trip.”