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October 23, 2013

Lucas bounces back with the Tigers

Coming out of Liberty High School in the Class of 2010, Marcus Lucas had no shortage of options. Lucas was the nation's No. 163 prospect, No. 25 wide receiver, and listed 11 scholarship offers. The offers came from virtually every prominent program in the Midwest plus Stanford, Tennessee and UCLA.

But there really wasn't much of a decision process for Lucas.

"Marcus had his room decked out in Missouri stuff as a baby and as a teenager himself, he just lined the walls with Missouri memorabilia," said Monique Lucas, Marcus' mom. "I think when he went down to start looking, he kind of did a couple visits, kind of showed a little bit of interest in other teams. I kind of thought he was just kind of checking things off. I thought would end up being a Tiger."

Not that his December 19th decision was quick enough for everyone's tastes.

"I just kept wondering why he didn't commit sooner," said Andy Hill, who was Lucas' lead recruiter. "His mom went here and it should have been over sooner than that. That was my main focus."

Yes, there is that family connection. Monique Lucas played basketball at Mizzou, a four-year letterwinner from 1986-89. Mom didn't push her alma mater on her son. She didn't really have to.

"I think that he looks up to me a lot and I appreciate that. I think that he always wanted to follow in Mom's footsteps and he did it his own way," she said. "He played basketball up through high school and football was his love and where his talent was."

Quotes from Lucas way back when he was in high school prove that admiration.

"My mom is everything to me," Lucas told Rivals.com before the start of his senior season. "She's my inspiration in everything I do. She's my biggest supporter.

"Growing up, she was my only parent. She took care of me. She put clothes on my back. She put food in my stomach. She gave me shelter. She gave me everything. She is my world.

"I'm going to do everything in my life to make her happy. I know it might sound like a cliché, but I want to be successful in this, so I can someday hopefully take care of her, buy her a house and let her do the things she wants."

Rivals.com projected Lucas as a potential future NFL receiver out of high school. That talent showed sporadically over Lucas' first three seasons as a Tiger. He caught 72 balls for 846 yards and eight touchdowns. But during his junior season, despite 46 catches for 509 yards, Lucas hit a low point on two fronts. He battled a case of the drops and was demoted temporarily to second-string on the depth chart. The Tigers limped to a 5-and-7 record in their first season in the Southeastern Conference.

"I watched the games with everyone else, I saw what was happening," Monique Lucas said of her son's struggles. "I just tried to be supportive of him and just make sure he had the resources to be successful. His family kind of rallied around him and told him to hang in there and keep doing his best."

While 2012 ended in disappointment, Lucas is thriving in 2013. He has 36 catches (tops on the team) for 358 yards and is on pace to set career-highs in both categories. He had his first 100-yard game in a win at Indiana and has led the Tigers in receptions three times. Not that Lucas is paying a bit of attention to the numbers.

"I've been playing the best that I have. But it's not really about that right now," Lucas said. "Myself and all of our receivers are pretty selfless as far as who's getting the most catches or who's getting the most yards, touchdowns, et cetera. That's not the goal. Everything else after that will take care of itself. As long as we keep winning games and the ball's moving downfield, I'm perfectly happy."

That attitude comes--where else?--from mom.

"I kind of look at it more right now as a team effort. I'm just happy Mizzou's team is able to kind of redeem themselves from last year," Monique said when asked about Marcus' success. "We just had a down year and some unfortunate injuries and glad the guys are healthier this year and they're making a statement."

"He's really been confidence for all the passing game," Hill, who is in his first season coaching quarterbacks after tutoring Lucas and the receivers for three seasons. "Because he has such a big athletic body, like a lot of our guys do, you can put him in the middle there. He's a smart person, which makes him a smart route runner and he's been making plays."

With the personal success has come success as a team. The Tigers are No. 5 in the BCS standings and undefeated as they prepare to host South Carolina for Homecoming on Saturday night.

"That 24 hours after the game, that Saturday night and a little bit on Sunday (you enjoy it). Flip the switch on Sunday about six o'clock, you're like, now we've got to get ready for South Carolina," Lucas said. "It's good to enjoy what we've accomplished so far, but that's nowhere near where we want to be at the finish."

It is, again, a sentiment, like all others, echoed by his mom.

"I just got off the phone with her not too long ago," Marcus said. "She's so proud of me and so proud of the team and what we've accomplished so far. She realizes this isn't the end. We've still got five more weeks to prove what we have."

Monique Lucas, like she has been for 41 of 42 games Marcus has played at Mizzou, will be in the stands watching.

"I think I unfortunately missed one game his freshman year. I think it was at Texas Tech," she said. "He ended up making a great catch and I couldn't stand that I wasn't there."

She will be there the rest of the way, just like she always has been for Marcus. Over the next five weeks, the roles just may be reversed. Between 1986 and 1989, when Monique was a student, Missouri football won 13 games and lost 30. Now, with her son playing a starring role, the Tigers are chasing that many wins--and perhaps one more--in a single season. And this time, it was the child who told the parent everything that was possible.

"When my son was deciding, he got some offers to some of the top ten teams in the nation at the time and I said 'What's more important, being around your family and friends or going and trying to get a national title?" Monique Lucas recalled. "He said, 'I think I can get both. I can get a national title at Mizzou.' And now he's going after it."

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