‘Big Tex’ eyeing big year for Hoosiers

You can’t give yourself your own nickname.

Unless you’re Luke “Big Tex” Timian, apparently.

What began as a joke has morphed into a new alter ego for Indiana’s senior receiver — even if the moniker itself is partly inaccurate. Sure, the 6-foot, 195-pound Timian is a native Texan. But big? Not exactly.

“He’s got a big heart,” IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey said, diplomatically. “He plays big.”

OK, fair enough.

Either way, fellow receiver Nick Westbrook said, Timian has fully embraced the aura and presence of “Big Tex.”

“He actually put up a Texas flag in our apartment, a huge Texas flag on the wall,” Westbrook said with a smile. “He tries to intimidate me. He’ll wear his big Texas hat — a big 10-gallon hat. We’ll be playing Mortal Kombat or some fighting game and he walks in the room with his big Texas hat to try and intimidate me.”

Timian has reason to feel a little extra confident this year after finishing third among Big Ten receivers with 68 receptions last season. That’s enough production to make anyone feel just a little bit bigger.

Hence the name, which Timian says has been well-received. Even IU coach Tom Allen has embraced the new Timian, gifting his most experienced receiver a hat and a pair of cowboy boots during fall camp.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised, for sure,” Timian said. “Kind of went out on a limb there and I guess I just got lucky with it sticking.”

The goal now is to have the rest of the conference believing in “Big Tex” by season’s end.

Last year was a significant step forward for the former walk-on, who transferred to IU from Oklahoma State in 2015. Across each of his first three years with the program, Timian has continued along an upward and encouraging developmental trajectory.

In 2015, Timian recorded his first career touchdown on a 27-yard reception against Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl.

In 2016, he played in all 13 games and received IU’s Outstanding Walk-On Player of the Year award after catching 19 passes for 277 yards.

In 2017, Timian earned a scholarship during fall camp and backed up Allen’s belief by posting the sixth-most receptions on IU’s single-season list and garnering All-Big Ten Honorable Mention recognition.

“I’ve raised my standards every single year,” Timian said. “As a walk-on, when you’re told that you’re not good enough for a long period of time — recruiting speaks for itself when you’re not getting recruited — you kind of do second-guess yourself. But once I started proving myself year-in, year-out, now my standards are so much higher.

“This year, I’m expecting to be First Team All-Big Ten. Those are my expectations. I will say, those weren’t mine last year. The bar’s been raised for me every single year.”

Timian spent his summer digesting hours of film in an effort to get to where he wants to be. He watched film from NFL games, breaking down defenses, studying coverages and asking questions to his coaches.

He also watched tape of similarly-built receivers to see how they maneuver defenses and exploit holes.

“For instance,” Timian said, “Cooper Kupp plays for the Rams. “He’s a guy that runs a lot of option routes. He’s extremely patient and I’ve learned patience from him. That’s one thing that comes to mind. You can tell he understands the game really well. I think that will help me.”

Timian can play on the outside or in the slot, and he’s listed with the first team offense at the latter on IU’s Week 1 depth chart. There, he’ll share snaps with sophomore Whop Philyor.

“Those are two of our better players,” Allen said. “Getting them out there together, keeping them fresh, too. They do a lot of running with the way we operate offensively. But those are two of our better play-makers on offense.”

Timian is already setting his sights on a big opening weekend. And, if Indiana beats Florida International on Saturday night in Miami, there might just be a “Big Tex” sighting on the way back to Bloomington.

“If we get a dub, I’m definitely gonna wear (the hat) on the ride home,” Timian said.