Son of Macon leaders killed in football accident
By Phillip Ramati
Telegraph Staff Writer
Former Northeast High School football star Al Lucas died Sunday in Los Angeles from a presumed spinal cord injury sustained during an Arena Football League game, according to officials from the Los Angeles Avengers and published reports.
Lucas, the 26-year-old son of state Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, and Macon City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, was trying to make a tackle in the first quarter of Sunday's game during a kickoff return against the New York Dragons.
According to published reports, television replays showed Lucas bending down to make a tackle. The Dragons' ball carrier and a blocker tumbled over his head and back, with the blocker's leg appearing to hit Lucas in the head. Lucas did not move after falling to the ground.
Lucas was taken to California Hospital and all attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, team physician Dr. Luga Podesta said in a statement to the Associated Press.
Attempts to contact members of the Avengers' organization were unsuccessful Sunday evening.
Lucas worked with Northeast's coaching staff as a community assistant coach during the AFL's offseason before becoming a full-time assistant this past season. Attempts to reach Raiders head coach Bruce Mullen weren't successful, but defensive coordinator Lance Perlman said Lucas' loss would be felt by the entire program.
"He helped us a lot in the three years I've been here," Perlman said. "Al had been coming in the offseason and volunteering and helping. He was a tremendous asset. We're going to have to tell the kids (today), and they're going to take it hard. He wanted to be a teacher and coach after he was done playing football, and he wanted to do it at Northeast.
"He coached the defensive line and was huge in our defensive scheme. All his professional experience he freely gave. He was in a total position to influence the program. ... Coach Mullen is in a state of shock. He's known Al almost all his life. It's horrible; it's a tragedy."
Steve Edwards, who coached Lucas during his playing days at Northeast, had fond memories of Lucas as a player and a person.
"Al was a super kid," Edwards said. "He loved football. He grew up in an athletically- and politically-based childhood. He was a super person and a super athlete. Obviously, this is a very, very tragic incident. I would certainly like to extend my condolences to his family."
Edwards spoke to Lucas several weeks ago.
"I spoke with Al at a Northeast basketball game, and we reminisced about the good times," Edwards said. "We had a very good person-to-person conversation. He was a very solid human being."
Lucas played two years in the Arena Football League after spending the 2000 and '01 NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
Lucas, a 6-foot-1, 300-pound lineman, was a standout in college at Troy State from 1996-99, where he won the Buck Buchanan Award as a senior as the top defensive player in Division I-AA.
After going into the Arena League, he was named to the All-Rookie team in 2003 with Tampa Bay. He chose to play in the Arena League even though he was the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Europe free agent draft by the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Lucas' younger brother, Lenny, plays for the Macon Knights in the af2.
Bibb County athletics director Raynette Evans remembered Lucas for his gentility.
"He was so wonderful," she said. "He volunteered his time and expertise, which was tremendous for our young men. ... He had a lot of credibility with our kids, and not just the Northeast students. Anytime he was in one of our athletic arenas, the football players from many schools would talk to him.
"I watched him in middle school (Appling) and high school. I'm shocked and stunned; you never expect to see it with someone you know. I started to think of him not on the football field but when he played basketball. That huge body was extremely intimidating, but he was so gentle. On the field he was as aggressive as you want in a player, but off the field he was what you would call a gentle giant."
AFL Commissioner David Baker issued a statement for the league.
"Al Lucas played arena football with passion and integrity. The entire AFL family extends its deepest sympathies to Al's wife and family as well as his friends, family and teammates," Baker said.
Lucas was married to De'Shonda Lucas and had a daughter, Mariah.
Published in The Telegraph on Apr. 11, 2005.