This week's Sunday Story in The News tells the story of Buffalo Bills rookie Marquis Lucas. We spent a day together in downtown Buffalo to discuss his wild upbringing, one that included his entire family living out of a Suburban and his father tragically dying right after Lucas took off to West Virginia for college.
And here below is a Q&A with Lucas' college coach at West Virginia, Ron Crook. In college, Crook became a go-to mentor on and off the field for Lucas. As always, thanks for reading folks.
On his relationship with Marquis Lucas: “He’s a guy who doesn’t give you trust right away. You have to earn it. He and I had a really good relationship. We were straightforward with each other. Like any coach and player, we had some ups and downs as we moved forward. But I feel like we have a lot of mutual respect for each other. And he won me over with his work ethic and his love for the game.”
On what he learned about Lucas when he opened up: “I think you learn, the things we talk about in meeting rooms about being mentally tough and being able to fight through the hard times. You realize he isn’t going to go through any more hard times that he’s already been through. He’s learned how to fight through all those times and learned how to thrive with those emotions and work towards his goals. When you have a drive like that you have an impact on the people around you.”
On Lucas losing his father: “You could tell that was difficult. Any man losing their father in life, it’s hard to go through. I lost my father at a much older age but you still go through it and ask ‘Why?’ Things haven’t been quite the same in my life since then. You view things differently and take on different approaches. Everything changes. And what happens for someone like him at a younger age is it forces you to mature earlier. It forces you to make some tough decisions earlier and do things you probably shouldn’t have to do at that age.”
On Lucas having a child serving as a turning point: “Raising a young child isn’t easy. It’s going to test you. What we talked about was how important a father is to a child. Whether you’re there every day in person right beside him or you’re just there from the standpoint of your child knowing how important they are to you. Understanding that ‘everything I do is for you, for your good, for your betterment.’ I’m really proud of the way he stepped up and is continuing to step up to be that kind of father."
On where exactly he witnessed a better focus: “You just see it in everyday happenings. Instead of hanging out with the guys, it became ‘Nah, I’m going to hang out here and do some stuff,’ to give himself time to look at things differently and view that day differently and understand ‘I’m in a different spot than these guys are.’”
On who Lucas is as a player: “He’s a guy that regardless of what happens, he loves playing football. He loves every part of it. He loves the weight room, the grind, he loves to work hard. His excitement to go out and play every day, you can see it. He comes out onto the field and gets a little more pop in his step. He’s far from being the perfect guy or the thing that you’d draw up but, man, you can’t help but be drawn to how excited he is about playing football.”
On Lucas not being the biggest or quickest but having this: "When you love it that much, you pay more attention to things. You do a little extra work on your own to make up for not weighing 330 pounds. You’ve got to have better leverage to give yourself a chance. You have to watch a little more film and see things happening before they happen. From his sheer excitement of playing, you could see him doing some of those things as he got older in his career.”
On if Lucas opened up about growing up homeless: “Not a whole lot. It was something I was aware of but didn’t want to push. Didn’t want to ask a whole lot of questions about. But I know that was something that helped define him. You can’t go through something like that and not have it have a big impact on you. I know there times he was trying to help out back home when he could from a financial standpoint as a college student. It’s not easy to do but he was trying to do that. He had a little sister back there that he was doing his damnest to take care of and now having a baby he’s trying to take care of. That all helped form him who he was as a person and a player.”