Anthony Lucas is one of my favorite people in the world. He also happens to be one of my favorite Arkansas Razorback football players.
Last week he was named the head football coach at Pulaski Academy and the second proudest man was me. His dad -- who he calls "Pops" -- was probably first.
The first time we met was media days of his freshman season. He was sitting in a chair smiling and speaking to everyone, even though most of us weren't interviewing the freshman. Lucas was just being himself.
Fitz Hill, then an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Razorbacks, introduced us. Afterward, Hill said that Lucas was a special young man from a special family.
He grew up in Tallulah, La., where he starred in football and basketball. He was an AAU basketball All-American and could have played college basketball, but football was his passion.
His parents attended every one of his games.
They were educators, and his dad also worked part-time at the local McDonald's to make sure his family had everything it needed. It also was with another goal in mind.
"The day Anthony graduates from college, I'm walking out of McDonald's and never going back," he said years ago. He followed through on that promise.
As a player, Lucas was just as dynamic on the field as he was off.
Blessed with 6-3 size and speed, he perfected the tunnel screen. Remembering how many times he took a 5-yard catch and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown is impossible because it happened so often.
He also had one of the greatest catches in school history in 1999 in a 28-24 win over defending national champion Tennessee.
With a little more than three minutes to play, Clint Stoerner passed deep in the end zone. It looked like Lucas was flying when he made the winning catch to avenge the 28-24 loss the season before when both teams went into the game undefeated.
Lucas lettered four years, and he was a captain and All-SEC during his senior year. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall Fame in 2020.
He's still all over the record books for receiving at Arkansas.
He is No. 1 for all-time 100-yard receiving games with 11, and tied for first for 100-yard receiving games in a season with five. His 23 receiving touchdowns rank No. 3, and he's tied for No. 3 for receiving touchdowns in a season with 10.
He is tied for No. 1 for touchdown receptions in a game with three. His 2,879 career receiving yards is No. 2. He is No. 3 in a season with 1,004 receiving yards, and No. 6 for receiving yards in a game with 194.
Lucas was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and spent a season with the Dallas Cowboys before retiring because of knee problems.
"I need these knees and legs to last me a lifetime," he said.
Several years ago, Lucas became the co-host on a TV show with yours truly.
If he had pursued a job in TV, he might have became a top-shelf analyst. His knowledge was unbelievable. In college, he sat in on quarterback meetings in his spare time.
Once, after a taping of the show, we were visiting when he said he was thinking about getting into coaching because he wanted to give back to the sport and make a difference in young people's lives.
Kevin Kelley talked him into joining his staff at Pulaski Academy in 2012, and Lucas was part of six state championship teams.
Now he's the head coach, but he will still be the same polite, smiling, spiritually led man who cherishes his family.
That's the way he was born and raised.