Keonte Lucas Bounces Back After Excruciating Injury

Trevi Alickolli , Assistant Sports Editor

Two years year ago, Central Connecticut redshirt-sophomore running back Keonte Lucas had just chosen the Blue Devils over multiple other schools to continue his football career but a little over a week into his collegiate career, he was tested with adversity.

“I remember the exact play,” Lucas said. “I never watched the film on it but I remember the play. It was a shovel pass, I remember putting my foot in the ground and someone just taking my knee out. I dropped the ball, grabbed my knee and I knew something was wrong.”

Lucas tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left knee 11 days into his rookie camp and was granted a redshirt year in 2017.

“That was a really low point in my life, to be honest,” Lucas said. “But I just kept working hard and kept battling and finally [the success is here].”

During his recovery period, Lucas said he became distant from some of his teammates because he was away from the game he loved.

“I distanced myself from the game because being around it made me feel away,” Lucas said. “I wasn’t myself without it and I knew that. I felt I couldn’t even show my real personality without it.”

“During that time when it happened, I used to always go home every weekend because I needed to be surrounded by love,” Lucas said. “I used to sit in my room at school and feel like I was wasting time because I wasn’t able to do what I love. I wasn’t in a good space mentally for a little bit.”

In 2019, Lucas said he understands that mental health is just as important as physical health and the advice he would tell anyone going through a similar situation to his is “stay surrounded by love, genuine love.”

The results on the field certainly indicate that Lucas has made a comeback mentally and physically.

After playing in just two games last year and only running the ball once for four yards, Lucas has played all 10 games so far this season and has logged 96 rushing attempts, 529 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also caught the ball nine times for 164 yards and one touchdown.

Lucas said his success this season means a little more because of the adversity he’s had to overcome so far early in his career.

“It means a lot, I can’t lie,” Lucas said. “I feel like people saw [my injury] as ‘oh, he got hurt, he’s going to fall behind and not catch up.’ But being able to not only catch up, but surpass expectations, it feels good, I can’t lie.”

In many ways, Lucas’ career can be defined in many ways by him adapting and overcoming adversity.

“He was a wildcat quarterback in high school,” head coach Ryan McCarthy said. “His film his senior year was highly productive. Everyone looks for a guy who runs 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy but what [Lucas] brings is great vision, really good balance and he has a really good feel [for the game]. That to me, is highly impressive and the essence of a running back.”

“It was a big adjustment,” Lucas said on his position change, but he has adapted.

Heading into the 2019 season, fellow running back Aaron Dawson was projected to be the starting back for the Blue Devils but he suffered an injury as well that has kept him out of all but one game this season. After Dawson’s injury, Lucas has taken most of the carries at the running back position despite the team being a “running back by committee” team. He has 96 carries while the next closest running back has 68.

Lucas saw the injuries at his position as an opportunity for a bigger role this season and in addition, he knows he had a good spring and camp this year, earning his touches.

“[Some people] were telling me that I’m one of the more talented running backs on the team,” Lucas said. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t [see it as an opportunity] though.

“He’s a guy that we saw during camp showing flashes,” quarterback Aaron Winchester said.

Winchester said that Week 3 was crucial for Lucas when Central faced Valparaiso University. “He showed himself that he can do this on a consistent basis,” Winchester said.

The Blue Devils won 42-13 behind a dominant performance by Lucas. He ran the ball 10 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns.

“Ever since that game, we’ve seen [his play] improve, not only running the ball but also in [pass] protection, which is a big thing [for our offense].

“If you see a kid who can do multiple different things on film, that’s the type of kid you want,” McCarthy said. “He’s a really good football player.”

“I bring composure, you know what you’re going to get out of me,” Lucas said. “I’m never going to be rattled, I treat everything like it’s just another day at the office.”

Lucas is still fairly new to his position but after everything he has been through, he won’t let anything keep him from his potential.

“I would say the ceiling is high,” Lucas said. He said all he has to do to keep improving and producing is to keep listening to his position coach, head coach, among others.