The Rise Of a Future Champion

The Seahawks' secret weapon in 2004 may just be fourth-year cornerback Ken Lucas. After losing his starting spot last year, Lucas insured that he'd be taking the reps in the new season with hard work and stellar play.

Just for a moment, take a step back in time to the third preseason game of the Seahawks’ 2004 season against the San Diego Chargers.

A confident Charger offensive unit lines up ready to wage war against a feisty, hungry Seahawk defense that desperately wants to prove itself worthy of the gritty and tough reputation of their second-year defensive coordinator, Ray Rhodes.

On the first play of the game, the Chargers have the ball, first and 10 on their own 30 yard line. Charger quarterback Drew Brees slowly walks to the line of scrimmage, and makes his read on the Seahawks defense. With confidence, he barks out the snap count and receives the snap from center. Brees quickly takes a five-step drop. He scans the field and spots his target, as he fires a pass towards his receiver.

Out of nowhere, Ken Lucas, number 21, flashes to the ball with incredible athleticism and intercepts the pass at the Chargers 44-yard line, 40, 30, 20, 10, Touchdown Seahawks! Ken Lucas prances into the end zone with his hands raised in celebration.

Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren looks up and smiles proudly, Holmgren knows that his 4th year, 2nd round draft pick, Ken Lucas has finally taken the next step towards stardom and legitimately won a starting spot at corner.

"Ken Lucas has had his best training camp ever." said Holmgren, "He's one of the more consistently good defensive players we’ve had in training camp. So right now, that position is his. He hasn’t lost the position, he’s grabbed it."

Because of a penalty the touchdown was nullified, but the play was so spectacular that it set the tone for Ken Lucas, a promising year ahead, a chance to become a star in a young defense full of potential.

When Shawn Springs became a free agent at the end of last season, he chose to sign with the Washington Redskins instead of finishing his career with the Seahawks. The Hawks signed nine-year veteran free agent, and former Pro Bowl cornerback Bobby Taylor to replace Springs at corner.

When defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes was the head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, he drafted Taylor as a second-round pick in 1995. Taylor played and thrived in Rhodes’ system. He was the perfect fit in Philadelphia and deemed to start in Seattle.

However, someone forgot to tell Ken Lucas, who has been fighting viciously for that starting job at corner. Lucas did not intend to let Taylor just walk in and take the starting spot vacated by Shawn Springs.

Lucas had the best training camp of his career this year. He picked off passes, stopped the run, and played with focus and determination. Lucas proved he was hungry for that starting corner spot. Lucas did what was necessary to win it and did it with style and confidence.

Lucas has played well under the direction of the defensive coaches, Teryl Austin and Ray Rhodes, whose coaching styles demand grit-iron toughness and a total commitment to excellence. Rhodes has the philosophy that failure is not an option, only hard work and improvement is acceptable. Lucas has lived up to that standard and to those expectations.

"Ken Lucas came in and had an outstanding camp." said Rhodes.

“He’s been focused, he’s stayed here all year rehabbing and looking at tape, studied the game," said Rhodes, " he was very, very good all camp. I’m excited for him because he’s had some up and down years."

Last year Lucas was overshadowed by the media hype about rookie sensations Marcus Trufant and Ken Hamlin. Lucas, a second-round draft pick from Mississippi, has been looking for his breakout year for a couple of years and has shown flashes of being a great corner.

Because of nagging injuries in previous years, Lucas lacked the confidence to solidify the starting spot at corner. After he came back from injury, veteran corner Shawn Springs passed over Lucas in a move that had a negative effect on his confidence.

Determined to make his mark in the NFL, Lucas worked hard in the off-season lifting weights and training tirelessly to achieve the standard of being his best. He listened to his heroic coaches and put out the effort to meet his goals.

His coaches and peers have noticed the change in this quiet kid from Mississippi. Lucas is playing with extreme confidence and displays the ability to make big plays and helping his team meet their goals. Lucas is hitting harder, running faster, and showing the spirit of a young champion on the rise.

Ray Rhodes has made a career out of molding young defensive players. When Rhodes was in his first year as defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers, he coached three rookie members from the Forty-Niner secondary to the Super Bowl - cornerbacks Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright and safety Carlton Williamson, earning the respect of then head coach Bill Walsh.

"What I liked about Ray," Walsh has said of his former aide, "was that he was completely committed and willing to do what it takes to coach champions."

It looks as though Ken Lucas has bought into Ray Rhodes’ philosophies. He has grasped the unquestionable desire to refine his skill and attitude to be the best, the same quality that has driven Ray Rhodes to be part of five winning super bowls.

Ken Lucas, a man who has worked through adversity, a man who has taken his skill to the next level, is a man who is destined to become a star in this league.

We’d like to thank Mike Zuercher for this impassioned fan’s perspective! You can reach Mike at mzuercher2000@yahoo.com.


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