LIBERTY, Mo. - The Liberty Blue Jays have had a long line of talented football players over the years, including many that have gone on to perform on the highest levels of college football and the NFL. But none of them were ever selected as U.S. Army All-Americans.
That changed on Tuesday when Marcus Lucas was selected to play in the nation's most prestigious high school all-star football game.
Lucas, the nation's No. 15 receiver and the No. 117 player overall, was officially announced Tuesday at a ceremony in front of his family, friends, teammates and coaches at Liberty. He will represent the West squad in the Jan. 9 game played in San Antonio's Alamodome.
It was a proud moment not only for Lucas, but everybody in the Liberty community.
"This doesn't happen very often to you as a coach to have a player get invited to play in this game," Liberty coach Joel Wells said. "We're really proud of Marcus and really proud of our football team because they both have done the work to make it happen."
Lucas was quick to thank all of those people that helped get him to this point.
"I want to thank my mom (Monique Lucas)," Lucas said. "She's been through everything with me. I want to thank my family. They're always on my side and always got my back. I want to thank my coaches. Coach Wells, coach (Nate) Thomas and all the coaches here have helped shape me.
"I also need to thank my teammates. None of this would be possible - quarterback, linemen, everything - without them. They've always been there pushing me."
After earning all-state honors as both a junior and a sophomore, Lucas has played with a big bull's-eye on his back. Lucas' mother said her son has handled that pressure and done everything you'd expect from an All-American.
"There is a lot of pressure on him, but Marcus has done a really good job of keeping it in perspective," Monique Lucas said. "I help him when I need to, but I think he's handled it really well for being such young age. With all the notoriety he's received, he's been able to stay humble."
Wells agrees that Lucas embodies an All-American both on and off the field.
"The thing about it is, he's 17 or 18 and sometimes we forget that," Wells said. "We expect more. He's grown up and matured, and we're looking forward to having the opportunity to play in the game. Hopefully, we get to have him play a few more games for us here at Liberty before that."
To do that Lucas has to lead his team to victory Friday night against Blue Springs South. The victory would lock up the second spot in Liberty's district and likely pit the Blue Jays against Missouri power Rockhurst in the first round of the playoffs.
All of the talk about playoffs has caused Lucas' mother to realize that recruiting is about to become topic No. 1 in her household.
"I'm really starting to encourage him to kick his recruiting process in gear, start narrowing some choices down and start making some visits," Lucas' mother said. "He really wanted to focus on his senior year and his senior football season. He decided to wait and do his visits after the season is over. Now we're coming up on playoffs, so I'm really excited the next few months we will be highly engaged in recruiting.
"The No. 1 thing I want for him is to be happy. His happiness is No. 1. No. 2 is that he finds a coaching staff where they really care about the players as human beings and as people first and then athletes second."
Lucas' mother played basketball at Missouri and many people say Lucas is a lock for the Tigers. Lucas definitely has Missouri high on his list, but he also said Oklahoma, Tennessee, Stanford and Arkansas are going to get official visits.
The Sooners have somewhat slipped on his list after being high with the Tigers. Lucas said OU's slide has to do with the Sooners' commitments at the receiver position, but Lucas and his mother aren't ready to rule anybody out in his top group at this point.
"Marcus knows how I feel about Missouri," Lucas' mother said. "He's been down to Missouri with me a number of times since he was little. We've always stayed in contact with the sports going on at Mizzou, but Marcus is his own man and he's going to make his own decision.
"He's very fond of Missouri, but he knows there are other opportunities out there as well."
But first he's going to complete the opportunity to represent Liberty as the city's first All-American football player.
"I want to make sure that everybody in Liberty is proud of me," he said.