Morgan State linebacker Reno Lucas is a glutton for punishment, but ever the optimist.
How else can you explain the enthusiasm and sense of humor of a college junior who can count his football victories -- high school and college -- on the fingers of one hand?
During Lucas' three-year career at Northwestern High School, the Wildcats' only victory was a forfeit by Forest Park his senior year because of an ineligible player. Still, he made honorable-mention All-Metro as a receiver.
Six games into his senior year, Northwestern had scored three touchdowns, with Lucas passing for one and getting the other two on pass receptions.
Of his Northwestern experiences, he said: "By the time I was through, I had played about every position, punted, and even handled some long [center] snaps for punts.
"I came to Morgan because I thought they were on the rise," Lucas said yesterday. "My senior year in high school, they were losing close, not getting blown out as they had before."
The Morgan State teams of the mid-1980s endured a losing streak of 27 games, and there were scores of 50-0, 52-9, 60-6, and 76-0.
"I was recruited as a free safety, but switched to strong safety and started the last two games my freshman year. As a sophomore, Thomas Gibson and I shared the position and we pushed each other to be better. It helped both of us because it made us work harder."
They combined for 71 tackles (four for losses), and Gibson recovered six fumbles.
Three games into his junior season, Lucas can not be blamed for thinking he'd been through this routine before. Morgan is 0-3, and the 6-foot, 190-pound athlete has shifted to being the lightest linebacker, first playing inside and now moving to the outside.
"During the preseason camp, Coach [Ed] Wyche said he thought I looked bigger, looked like a linebacker, and he was going to try me there. I thought it was a joke. We started with seven inside linebackers and although I had the height, I didn't have the weight. I came in at 197.
"By the first game, we were down to three. I was fortunate. I'd rather hit than be hit. I subbed the first two games [Central State and Bethune-Cookman], then started last week against Bowie State."
His physical play impressed the coaches. He was in on 11 tackles (one for a loss) and had two sacks. "That's the first time I sustained my physical play," he said.
"The coaches had been telling me I was like an engine -- I turned it on and off. I'd maintain a certain level, then something in the game would make me mad and I'd go up to another level. The coaches wanted me to keep that upper level."
Working at outside linebacker against North Carolina A&T this week, Lucas does not expect to get as many tackles as last week. It will be more containment, taking on blockers, and pass coverages.
He also has a renewed interest after missing spring practice because of poor academics. "I'm determined to bring up my grades," said Lucas, a telecommunications major. "I improved last semester, and I know I can do better."
Northwestern High School 1985 0-9
Sept. 19, 1987: Forest Park (forfeit)
(Ended 24-game losing streak) Morgan State University 1988 (1-10) 21 Elizabeth City 0
1989 (4-6-1) 31 Norfolk State 20
12 Bethune-Cookman 6
27 N.C. A&T 7
19 Cheyney 12