Auburn Tight End Luke Deal (86)_20231125_FB_vsALA_JH_214Auburn Tight End Luke Deal (86)_20231125_FB_vsALA_JH_214
Jamie Holt/Auburn Tigers

On The Plains with Luke Deal: 'No time like the present'

by Kendra Willard

AUBURN, Ala. – Tight end Luke Deal’s sixth preseason camp on the Plains will be unlike any other. 

Luke and his wife, Ansley York Deal, are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child, due in August. 

“We’re having a boy and we’ve already got his name picked out,” Deal said. “It’ll be Christopher James after my dad, and we’re going to call him C.J.”

Deal lost his beloved father Chris after a short battle with ALS in June 2022. 

“I like nicknames and I think my dad would be very proud of that,” Deal said. “C.J. is going to be born right in the middle of fall camp – we didn’t plan that out too well. But there’s no time like the present. We’re really excited and blessed to have a healthy baby so far. There will be a lot of juggling around, but we’ll do the best we can.”

Luke met Ansley, an apparel merchandising major, soon after he arrived in Auburn in 2019. They were married in the summer of 2022.

“She was and still is everything I’ve ever hoped for,” Deal said. “She’s from Auburn, so that has made this place even more special to me.”

Ironically, the ultimate Auburn man didn’t know much about the Tigers until the recruiting process.

“I grew up in South Carolina (Greenwood), so I never really understood what Auburn was and never really thought about it,” Deal said. “But when I got here, it just felt like family to me.”

And it’s that family atmosphere that has kept Deal grounded in Auburn for the past five-plus years. 

One of the longest-tenured team members, Deal is ready to fully embrace his final season on the Plains as long as he and the team reach the goals they’ve put in place. 

“Every time we run out on the field, I think of all the people that went before us,” Deal said. “It’s super special to me. That mixed in with the fact that I haven’t won nearly enough games for our standard – I’m going to keep coming back until we achieve that standard, or they literally kick me out.”

20230916_FB_vs_Samford_Deal86_AP_5889AUBURN, AL - September 16, 2023 - Auburn Tight End Luke Deal (#86) during the game between the Samford Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, AL. Photo By Austin Perryman

Deal arrived on campus in January 2019 and is the last man standing from that incoming class. That hasn’t deterred him from growing closer to his teammates, both old and new. 

“I think I’m the only one left from when I first came to Auburn,” Deal said. “And through all that change, I’ve continued to build relationships with all these guys and have worked really hard to get better. Anyone who has played a collegiate sport knows how much time you have to put in with the teammates around you.”

From coaching changes to rotating teammates and to all the work put in on and off the field, Deal is ready to put that all together in his final season to guide the Tigers to an incredible year.

“I think it would give me a lot of closure,” Deal said. “It would just be really rewarding. We’ve seen other teams get that kind of success, and to feel that is what I’m wanting to experience this year. To be rewarded for the hard work and dedication.”

Auburn people love this place, and we can feel that love. The passion and the intensity every time you step on the field no matter who we are playing – it’s pretty cool.


Luke Deal

Tight End

A big part of what the 2023 team captain hopes to bring to the table in his final season is leadership. As he continues to grow in that role, he looks to the past to build his leadership skills. 

“I learned a lot of my leadership style from other people,” Deal said. “I think of the older guys that were here when I first arrived like Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson. Those were all great guys who had a lot of influence on me. What I’ve learned from them and others is that it’s about relationships.” 

As the years have passed, he continues to grow and learn how to be the best leader for the Tigers. 

“My parents always told me that I was a born leader,” Deal said. “One thing I’ve learned being here is that if people don’t respect me, then those leadership skills don’t matter. I think the biggest role I can play is getting to know everyone and what’s going on in their life – to be there for them through the good and bad and just be genuine. 

“I’ve gotten more vocal over the years because I truly want the guys around me to trust and respect me. I was able to do that by being genuine with them and showing them that I cared.”

Looking ahead to the fall, Deal is ready to once again get in front of the Auburn Family in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“I’ve been to a bunch of really, really cool stadiums that had some really cool fanbases,” Deal said. “I do love going to away games. But there is just a different feeling here. Yes, it’s the loudest in my opinion. Yes, it’s the craziest. But the biggest thing is that it all feels genuine. Our fans truly love Auburn.” 

It’s the fanbase that has really made a difference during Deal’s time on the field here at Auburn.

“I’ve seen us not make a bowl game and lose games in some crazy ways,” Deal said. “But no matter what, the fans are the same. Auburn people love this place, and we can feel that love. The passion and the intensity every time you step on the field no matter who we are playing – it’s pretty cool.”

Auburn has become that special place for Deal as he’s gone through so many big life moments while on the Plains. 

In the classroom, the five-time SEC academic honor roll honoree earned his degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts in May 2022, and finished up his master’s degree from the College of Education in December 2023. 

The Plains have become such a special place for the kid from Greenwood, South Carolina. He has taken root here where so much life has happened over the past five years. With dreams of continuing his football career, his dreams also include the university that has given him so much. 

“I would love to make an NFL team,” Deal said. “That is the ultimate goal. After my playing career is over, however, my dream job would be here in Auburn as a strength coach. We’ve placed our roots here in Auburn, and we know that we will always be able to come back after the NFL. That is our dream.”

20240319_FB_SpringPractice_Deal86_AP_1868AUBURN, AL - March 19, 2024 - Auburn Tight End Luke Deal (#86) during spring practice at the Woltosz Football Performance Center in Auburn, AL. Photo by Austin Perryman