Ray Lucas: Confident Under Pressure

By: Brian Connors

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Ray Lucas was a gritty and courageous football player. However, nothing he accomplished on the football field even begins to compare to how strong he has been since retiring from the field.

Lucas has recently put out an autobiography, Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything and Why I’d Do It All Again. With his co-writer David Seigerman, he has been on a tour across cities and neighborhoods on the East Coast, signing books and talking to audiences about both his playing days and the struggles he had with depression and addiction after football was over.

He spoke in New Brunswick at Barnes & Noble, located at 100 Somerset St., about his post-retirement struggles. The reading took place on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

The game left his body mangled and his psyche destroyed from the inside out. He went to doctors to treat his injuries, but his body didn’t really start to deteriorate until after his NFL-issued health insurance stopped covering his procedures.

“NFL insurance covers you for five years after you are done playing,” said Lucas. “Unfortunately, new research says that most injuries for players start to coming out until 6-8 years after you are done playing.”

For Lucas, that is when the addiction really started to take over his life. His body was in such severe pain, specifically his neck and his back. Since he couldn’t afford the surgeries he needed without insurance, he relied on pain killers to get through the day.

“No doctors would prescribe me all the different pills I wanted,” he said, “So I would get them any way I could. I would get them on the street if I had to.”

The need for pills crippled the Lucas family. Ray, his wife Cecy, and their three daughters were forced to move from their home into a small apartment meant for one or two people.

“I couldn’t shave. I couldn’t look in the mirror. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know who I was looking at.”

It was at this point that Lucas couldn’t take it anymore. He felt that he was better off dead. He was going to commit suicide by driving his truck off the George Washington Bridge.

A few days prior to the day he planned to commit suicide, he was told to call a woman named Jen Smith. She listened to his story, and set up for doctors to take his case and finally get him the surgeries he needed, pro-bono.

When Lucas spoke to doctors before his surgery, he was on 29 different medications, including OxyContin, Percocet, Xanax, Ambien, and Roxicodone. He was taking up 1,400 pills a month.

When they performed tests on him, a sonogram showed that Lucas’ heart was double the size it should have been. His systolic blood pressure was 280 (a normal reading being around 130). The care he needed could not have come at a more crucial time.

He finally got the medical care he needed and checked into rehab for his addictions soon after. When he got into contact with Seigerman, they felt that Lucas had a story that he had an obligation to tell, not just for the fans, but for former players and anyone struggling with addiction.

“The reason why we did this book is because people have started to become aware of the toll that playing football has on you,” said Seigerman. “They give up everything for the game. Their bodies are broken, and for a lot of people, their lives are broken too. They need a way to feel better, and they are too proud to ask for help. They didn’t make it to the NFL by asking for help. Everything can stand to benefit to see a man come out the other side.”

Ray Lucas played quarterback for Rutgers from 1992-1995. His best year was during the 1995 season when he threw 16 touchdown passes, ran for six, and boasted a 115.8 QB rating.

His best year in the NFL was during the 1999 season with the New York Jets. He threw for 14 touchdown passes and only threw 6 interceptions.

Lucas joined SNY in 2006 and serves an analyst on the following shows: “Jets Post Game Live!”, “Jets Extra Point”, and “Jets Nation”. In 2010 he won an Emmy for Best Sports Analyst in New York.

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