The coaching profession is fluid at best. Hard work and preparation are a couple of the consistent characteristics for those that are successful throughout the community. Sterling Lucas honed both of those traits during his playing career and since his graduation. Now he hopes it will take him to the next stage.
Lucas has spent the last two seasons as a graduate assistant on Dave Doeren’s staff after helping with the strength and conditioning unit in 2013. While he has the ability to remain one more season in that capacity, the native of Orangeburg, South Carolina has his eyes open for opportunities available within the coaching ranks.
On Saturday, Lucas will be in San Antonio, Texas for a convention among coaches and graduate assistants that will provide him an opportunity to network within the industry. It will not be his first rodeo however, as he previously was among 30 selected out of hundreds of applicants to the Future Football Coaches Academy which gave him valuable knowledge along with the chance to meet several people in the coaching profession.
The trip to Texas also comes after Lucas spent this previous summer working with the Baltimore Ravens on an internship for his master’s degree at the team’s summer mini-camp.
If there is one thing the past three years have taught Lucas, it is that he loves to teach.
“It is great,” Lucas said of coaching. “You have got to enjoy the process. I love to see guys be successful and for a guy to figure it out and for me to help them through that process, it is a great feeling. I can’t even explain it.”
Coaching got on his radar after he was forced to miss the 2011 campaign due to a knee injury. It was the NC State coaching staff along with the medical advice of doctors that initially helped him hone in on where his future might be.
“Going into my senior season I hurt my knee,” Lucas said. “It was Coach Tenuta and Coach Archer at the time. I was going to redshirt so they thought it would be best that I get into coaching. That whole year I sat out but I sat in the press box with them. I was kind of like a student coach. It was a pretty good experience.”
“During my senior season, my knee was still bothering me,” Lucas added. “They told me I basically don’t have any cartilage in my knee. After the season, I talked to Coach Doeren and I expressed to him I would like to get into coaching. He allowed me the opportunity, which was great.”
When he returned in 2012, Lucas could see the benefits of spending the previous campaign with the defensive coaching staff.
“I was able to see it from a coach’s perspective from what I was doing at linebacker, and I was able to put all of the pieces together,” Lucas said of his play in 2012. “I was able to hold position meetings with the linebackers. Coach Tenuta trusted me that much.”
Dave Doeren also has developed a trust in Lucas. He is of no doubt that the past three years is the genesis of what will be a great coaching career.
“Being a graduate-assistant is kind of a 24/7 gig,” Doeren said. “It is a lot of work. There is a little bit of coaching and a lot of scout team work. There is a ton of breakdown of film. It is not easy. There are a lot of guys that want to find work. Whoever gets him is going to get a good guy who does a great job.
“Sterling is a great guy, and he is a good young coach. He understands the schemes and he also understands what it is like to be a player and to communicate to those guys. He is going to be a really good football coach for somebody. I'm hopeful that he finds a job coming out of his GA career and that I can hire him back someday.’
It has been a long journey in Raleigh for Lucas. Whether he moves on prior to next season or returns for one more campaign, he knows his time at NC State for the foreseeable future is likely to come to an end soon.
But Lucas always will take great pride in what he has accomplished in his time at NC State. The journey from a teenager to a man and from a player to a coach has shaped his life in many ways.
“The goal is to land a full-time job, whether it is here or somewhere else, but my mindset is I am going to do a great job wherever I am,” Lucas said. “When you do a great job, things come. If you do a great job where you are, the sky's the limit.
“Obviously with my love for football I am am going to have a passion for the game, whether I am at State or anywhere else, but this is something extra because it is my alma mater. Playing here and being able to tell those guys that I sat in the same seat they sat in... I know the struggles.
“I came to NC State in 2008. I was 18 years old. Throughout my time at NC State I became a man. It definitely helped me grow as a man.”