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November 21, 2012

Inspiring Sterling Lucas poised for Senior Day



Sterling Lucas has seen and experienced life-changing events during his five years at NC State.

Lucas' college career has come down to a two-game situation. He'll celebrate Senior Day against Boston College on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium and then hope to play in the best bowl game possible.

Lucas reflected back Tuesday on how he was part of coach Tom O'Brien's first full recruiting class, which included linebacker classmates Terrell Manning, Dwayne Maddox and the late William Beasley.

Maddox went through Senior Day activities last year in the historic rally over Maryland. The 56-41 win over the Terrapins also proved to be Manning's last home game.

Manning turned pro with a year of college eligibility remaining and went on to be drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers. Lucas and Manning still talk every now and then.

Lucas had hoped that it would have been his last home game too, but he suffered a season-ending left knee injury before the season started and used his available redshirt.

"I really don't know what to expect [for Senior Day]," Lucas said. "I have had a great experience at NC State and wouldn't trade it for the world. I saw those guys play their last games, and they got kind of emotional about it. There isn't any telling how I'll feel with the emotions going through me."

Lucas thinks about his former linebacking teammates and the ups and downs they went through, especially Beasley. The Milton, Fla., standout was dismissed from the Wolfpack on Sept. 20, 2010, and was killed as a passenger in a car accident March 3, 2012.

"Those are my brothers and we came in together and we keep in contact on the regular," Lucas said. "We just talk about life. Football is football, and we all play football, so it's a part of our life.

"[Beasley] was a sad situation. That is why I try and cherish life and live every day to the fullest. It took me a while for that to hit because I just didn't want to believe it. That's a very unfortunate situation."

Maddox filled in wherever the Wolfpack wanted him, and like Lucas, was forced to play early as a sophomore when Nate Irving suffered his season-ending injuries from his car accident on June 28, 2009.

The car accidents involving Beasley and Irving left a mark on Lucas' heart.

"Nate went through his car accident and he was a different person after that," Lucas said. "He always would say, 'Live is never promised. The next day is never promised, so live every day to the fullest.' That is what I try to do. I try to come out here enthusiastic.

"We had a bad loss this past week [losing 62-48 at Clemson], but there is life after football."

Lucas' knee injury last year gave him time to ponder his life after football.

"I think coaching is something I'd like to do," said Lucas, who spent time in the press box with the coaches last year. "It's all about the camaraderie with the guys and impacting guys lives, so I really enjoy it."

Lucas, who is from Orangeburg, S.C., and originally picked NC State over North Carolina and South Carolina, believes there is a reason the various parts of adversity have come his way.

"I'm a strong believer in God, and I believe God has allowed things to happen to me for a reason," said Lucas who graduated last May in communications. "I just felt like he allowed that injury to happen and bring me closer to him. I just want to glorify him through the sport I play."

Lucas had to become a vault with his teammates and not spill any of the comments he heard in the press box.

"They [the coaches] gave me the disclaimer before it started that what happens in the press box stays in the press box," Lucas said. "A lot of stuff I had to keep to myself. Maybe a couple of years down the road, I'll disclose a little something, but right now I have to keep it inside."

Lucas has been trying to hold things together for the defense. The linebacking unit also lost expected starter D.J. Green, who suffered a season-long NCAA suspension for using a performance enhancing drug.

The 6-2, 238-pounder has a career-high 80 tackles and two sacks through 11 games. He enters the Boston College contest with 166 career tackles and three sacks in 47 games, 13 of which he started.

The co-captain had 14 tackles against Clemson last Saturday, which matched his previous career-high against Virginia Tech in 2009.

"It's been up and down," Lucas said. "In the Florida State game in the second half, we shut [down] one of the best offenses in the country. Then last week, we gave up too many big plays. Just inconsistent."

Lucas is still rounding up tickets for Saturday's game. He's predicting fifth-year senior strong safety Earl Wolff will shed a tear and remembers Owen Spencer getting emotional in 2010. Lucas isn't predicting any tears for himself.

"I'm trying to hit these freshman up for some tickets, but I have a lot trying to come," Lucas said. "My parents are very proud of me. This was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it to the world.

"I don't think I'll cry and I can't remember the last time I cried to be honest."


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