Even before the sun rises, the Morgan State football team is hard at work.
Wins on the field provide the fuel for the bulk of the Bears. But for assistant head coach and running backs coach Kenny Lucas, his inspiration comes from another place this time of year.
“Back in 1998 I lost my first wife to breast cancer. When the doctors discovered her breast cancer she was at stage three,” said Lucas.
Cristal Lucas was an active cheerleading and softball coach, health and physical education teacher.
“When you walk out of a hospital and a doctor tells you your loved one has about six months to live, and in actuality it was only six days that my wife lived thereafter,” said Kenny Lucas.
She was only 43 years old.
“It was a trying time but you have to keep going. I think that’s something that’s a part of life. You’re going to experience some bumps in the road. You have to keep going. You can’t face that bump and stop or turn around and go back, particularly when others depend on you,” he said.
Lucas turned to football as a way to cope then. And still does now.
“This sport brings us so close together and occasionally you have those intimate conversations and it’s ironic when you come across a player that has experienced breast cancer either similar to what I have or maybe a different fashion. But, it gives you even more of a stronger bond,” he added.
That bond exists between Lucas and senior running back Marcolm Banks.
“My aunt is one of the pillars and woman of my foundation,” said Banks.
Banks’ Aunt Kathy Banks-Roe beat breast cancer in 2001 and again in 2008.
“She was never unwavering in her faith. Always had a strong will to make sure she was going to survive and thrive,” he said. “Her cancer’s in remission. She’s great. She’s always upbeat.
Aunt Kathy’s journey and fight is evident in her nephew.
“If she was able to fight cancer and beat it, then I’m able to go through these drills or run through a defender and be successful in my efforts. So, she’s taught me a lot about strength. Not just being in the weight room strength but mentally strong,” Banks added.
Marcolm Banks and Kenny Lucas are two men bound by the love for their team and the mission to keep battling for their loved ones.
“To see that he’s always strong every day, makes you aware and knowing that ‘Oh, I can be strong as well. I don’t have to be hurt all the time.’ I also don’t have to hold it in all the time,” said Banks. “I can share whatever pain I’m going through with somebody who’s also been through it and we can both get through it together.”