Cody Lucas was in a video game emporium one day in the High Desert of Southern California.
A 4-year-old boy, after getting an eyeful of Lucas' missing left hand, had an unpleasant reaction.
"He yelled ‘Freak!'" said Lucas, a Phelan Serrano football player. "His mom immediately backhanded him and then chewed him out. I just laughed it off.
Lucas is Serrano's starting defensive tackle with the missing hand, due to a birth defect. He said people in his small desert community are normally more courteous about his plight.
"People are usually accepting and polite," said the 6-foot, 260-pound senior. "I like it better when people aren't nervous about the subject and just ask me what happened. Little kids tend to be like that. Normally it's the adults who have a problem."
Coaches and teammates at Serrano don't skirt the issue. Years ago Diamondback assistant coach Casey Goodnough dubbed Lucas "Nub the Destroyer" in honor of his left arm which ends at the wrist.
Teammates will sometimes lovingly tease Lucas by telling him to "wrap up" on tackles, knowing that he can't.
Good-natured and intelligent, Lucas takes the kidding in stride.
Tonight at Lucas plays possibly his last
high school game, as Serrano takes on Riverside Arlington at
He has started all season for the Diamondbacks, who finished third in the Mojave River League and went 6-4 overall during the regular season.
It has not been quite as glorious a year for Serrano as 2004 when the Diamondbacks went 14-0 and won the section title. But it's been an interesting season nonetheless for the team and for Lucas.
"He's such a dedicated kid," Serrano coach Ray Maholchic said. "He has totally bought into the team concept and is so giving of himself. Everything with Cody is team, team, team. I'd like to have 50 Cody Lucases."
Five years ago Lucas was a pudgy eighth-grader who had never played sports. But Serrano is a big football school and its program is the pride of what is known as the Tri-City area of Wrightwood, Phelan and Pinon Hills.
The Friday Night Lights beckoned the husky boy with the missing left hand.
"Cody asked a proctor at his junior high school if he thought he could play," said Cathy Lucas, the boy's mother. "I don't think Cody really thought they'd let him play. But Jerry said ‘I don't see why not.' He was very encouraging."
Cathy Lucas credits Parsons, now a Serrano assistant, and other Serrano coaches such as Maholchic, Goodnough and Geoff Ries for being accepting of her son and helping to mold him.
In return, Serrano has gotten a solid football player who compensates for his missing hand by using his brains and instincts.
"Some runners will try to go nub-side on me," said Lucas, referring to his missing hand. "But I'm able to use my head a lot, sort of as an extremity. I'm able to compensate."
That doesn't surprise Cathy Lucas, who has noticed the same quality in her son.
"Cody adapts," she said. "He's quite independent. He's always been one to say ‘No, I can do it by myself.'"
Much to Lucas' credit, he has asked no favors. When he arrived on the Diamondback varsity, he told the Serrano coaches as much.
"I didn't want them treating me any differently," he said. "I told them just to grade me like I was any other player. Then if I'm a bad football player, they'll give me bad grades and I'll work hard to improve."
Next year Lucas will take his 3.0
grade point average to
His goal is be a firefighter or to be involved in some aspect of the fire service. Toward that end he is currently in the Explorer program at Adelanto Station 322.
College will be a step up for her son, but one Cathy Lucas is confident Cody can take.
"There's nothing that he can't do," she said. "It's been that way in football and it will be that way in the fire service.
"Cody has always had this great sense of right and wrong and what's just and what's unjust. If he could be a super hero, I think his special power would be that his nub would grow and protect society from injustice."