Sept. 18, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
After suffering a season-ending knee injury during pre-season camp last season, graduate student Sterling Lucas is back on the field and making his presence known.
The starting middle linebacker for the Wolfpack is currently third on the Pack with 20 tackles through the first three games. He started the season with nine tackles, including two tackles for a loss and a sack, in the season opener against Tennessee, and then finished with eight tackles in the Pack’s win at Connecticut.
“It feels great, obviously, after being out all last year to be back on the field again,” said Lucas.
Last season, Lucas sat in the coaches’ booth during the games, which allowed him to see the entire field and how plays develop. It also helped him to see the best angles to take to the football when in pursuit of the ball carrier.
“Being up in the box allowed me to see the whole formation,” Lucas said. “What guys are going to do out of certain formations, just vision in general. Coach Tenuta always says that vision is the most indispensable tool you can have so just seeing everything and reacting to it has helped me the most this year.”
The Orangeburg, S.C., native made just his third career start against Tennessee and first since 2009, but showed no ill effects due to the time missed with the injury.
Lucas credits his success in game one to his ability to read and anticipate the play the offense will run after preparation coming in practice.
As the captain of the defense, Lucas is the vocal leader on the field and helps make sure that others are in the correct formation before the ball is snapped. He was also the captain of his high school defense and says that the roles are very much similar.
“Being a leader is just something that’s part of my make-up,” said Lucas. “Even if I wasn’t technically the team captain I would still be a leader because leadership is something that’s just engrained in me.”
In high school, Lucas was regarded as a highly touted prospect after tallying 161 tackles and five sacks during his senior season. He was rewarded for his efforts by being selected to participate in the North Carolina vs. South Carolina Shrine Bowl game. The Pack linebacker recorded eight tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception en route to claiming defensive MVP honors for the South Carolina squad.
After the NC State coaching staff saw Lucas’ performance in the Shrine Bowl game he was offered a scholarship.
“NC State was my first Division I offer,” said Lucas. “ Even before I was offered a scholarship the coaching staff was communicating with me.”
Lucas committed to the Wolfpack after an official visit and said that it felt like home when he came to visit.
In his freshman season, he was one of five true freshmen to see action for NC State. He registered 14 tackles on the season, including a season-high four in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
The first start of his career came at home against Maryland during his sophomore campaign on homecoming weekend, but Lucas responded to the call and made eight tackles, including one for loss. He recorded 14 tackles in the contest against Virginia Tech, which was the highest tally for a Pack defender all season.
Lucas saw action in all of the Pack’s games as both a sophomore and junior at middle linebacker or on special teams. As a junior, he ranked fourth on the team in special teams tackles and tallied a sack in the contest against Cincinnati.
During preseason camp last summer, Lucas suffered a knee injury that would cause him to sit out the entire 2011 season. The injury actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Lucas as he was projected to be the back up behind former Pack and current NFL linebacker Audie Cole.
He received a medical redshirt for what would have been his senior season and was granted another year of eligibility to compete in 2012.
With the departures of linebackers Audie Cole and Terell Manning to the NFL, Lucas is now the most experienced player at the linebacker position.
“When I’m out there I just try to help the younger guys stay comfortable first and let them know that it’s just like practice,” Lucas said. “I also help them when the offense lines up a certain way to tell them what plays to expect.”
Rickey Dowdy and Rodman Noel have joined Lucas as outside linebackers in each of the first two games, neither of the two had started a game prior to the season opener against Tennessee.
“He was a warrior out there in his first game back (against Tennessee),” said head football coach Tom O’Brien. “It was a tough night to get lined up due to the noise of the crowd so communication on the field was tough, but Sterling did as good a job as to be expected getting everybody lined up and ready to go before the snap.”
Now a graduate student, Lucas graduated in May of 2012 with a degree in communication with a concentration in interpersonal communication.
Lucas is one of four members of the 2012 squad that have already received their undergraduate degrees.
The South Carolina native is not exactly sure what he wants to do with his degree, but says that he is thinking about getting into coaching after his playing days are done.
When asked what he enjoyed most about playing for NC State Lucas said “Just the experience, the fans. When you come into Carter-Finley stadium, it’s crazy loud we have fans like no other. It’s like we’re all family here and all want each other to succeed.”
Lucas and the Pack set one of their team goals as winning the ACC championship. Lucas’ goal for the team mirrored the overall team goal, and in addition, he wants to win every game possible and be highly competitive.
Since his time with the Wolfpack program, Lucas says he has matured and developed both on and off the field. In particular his type of music choice he listens to before games has changed from the typical “hype” music to more “focus” music.
Being granted another year of eligibility has paid big dividends for Lucas, as he is the captain of the defense and starting middle linebacker, two titles he may not have had the opportunity if not for the injury.
“You have to learn to take everything in stride and know that everything happens for a reason,” Lucas said. “When I first got hurt I didn’t know why, but now I know it was because I was supposed to be here to lead my team this year.”
The Wolfpack linebacker was voted as the captain of the defense by his fellow teammates along with quarterback Mike Glennon, who serves as the captain of the offense.
“It’s an honor, obviously being selected by your fellow teammates makes it a huge honor, said Lucas. “I don’t take it lightly and I’m going to do everything I can to lead this team.