AUGUSTA — After a whirlwind year, Ben Lucas finally feels as if he can catch his breath.

On Tuesday, the 2013 Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning quarterback from Cony High School announced he would begin taking classes at Wagner College in January, with the hope of returning to the football field this spring.

“It’s been pretty hectic, not only for me but for my whole family,” Lucas said. “I’m just really excited that I’m finally going to get a chance to play Division I again after major arm surgery and everything that we’ve been through as a family.

“It’s really exciting and everything is just kind of working out right now.”

A year ago at this time everything was falling into place for Lucas. He led Cony to the Class B state title and then found out he was a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

The 6-foot-4 quarterback would go on to win the award in January, and then commit to play football at the University of Maine at Orono in February.

This past spring, however, things began to unravel for Lucas.

In May his mother, Alison, was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, he withdrew from Maine and underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Even with everything going on in his life, the young man refused to give up.

“One of the things I kind of looked at was obviously having the surgery kind of sucks, but I kind of really used how my mom handled everything as motivation,” Lucas said. “If I have a shoulder surgery and I’m kind of down about it, the stuff that my mom is going through is a lot worse than what I had to deal with.

“I really kind of used that as motivation. I mean, (I know) how excited and proud she is of me when I step out on the field so I needed to get back to where I was and get back to playing college football. I know she loves watching me play and it will be a big thing for her when she can see me back out on the field.”

Since his surgery in August that is exactly what Lucas has done, as he went to physical therapy and gradually began regaining strength in his arm.

On Oct. 21 he got possibly the best news of all, when he posted on Twitter that his mother’s cancer was in remission. Both developments led Lucas to reopen his college search.

“That was a pretty big weight on my shoulders,” Lucas said. “It wasn’t an easy thing, but now that she’s happy, she’s smiling and getting back to her old self it makes it a heck of a lot easier to go back to school and do what I have to do.”

During those trying times and the recruitment period that followed, Lucas credited his family — particularly older brother Nick — and his coaches at Cony — head coach Robby Vachon and assistant B.L. Lippert — for helping him.

“It was pretty much just telling him to stay as positive as possible,” Vachon said of the advice he gave Lucas. “Life throws some curveballs at you and Ben has had his fair share at a young age but he’s going to get through it.

“He’s still a young kid, he’s got everything in front of him and he just has to do what he has to do to get himself ready physically. Then, everything else will take care of itself.”

When Lucas initially committed to Maine, Wagner was on his list of schools as a close second. The second time around Lucas said the coaching staff at the Staten Island college made him feel more comfortable about his chances of returning to his old form following the surgery.

“Back when I first committed to Maine it was kind of a toss-up between Maine and Wagner where I really wanted to go,” Lucas said. “Wagner was always a close second and then after everything with my arm, after having the surgery Wagner kind of gave me more confidence than Maine did that I would be able to reach the top of their depth chart.

“…Basically Maine just told me that they really don’t know what my potential is anymore and they really don’t have any more expectations of me coming in and what I could be able to do.”

While he may be moving on from the Black Bears, Lucas did note that he has nothing but respect for Maine coach Jack Cosgrove and his program.

“Coach Cosgrove is really a legend kind of in college football coaching,” Lucas said. “The program has had a lot of success and I’m really grateful to the people in the state of Maine for the opportunity that I had to be a part of that program.

“Just playing high school in this state for four years, it’s a special state so I’m grateful for that. In the long run I had to do what is in the best interest for me and this was the best choice for me at the time.”

Cosgrove could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Now four months removed from surgery, Lucas has full range of motion back in his arm and said he is about two months away from throwing a football again. He will begin taking classes at Wagner in January and hopes to participate in spring workouts.

There he is hoping to prove to the coaching staff that by the fall he will be ready to compete for a starting job with the Seahawks.

“I’ll be able to kind of get a good balance between taking classes and then being able to be around a team more. Then when spring ball comes hopefully I’ll be at 100 percent,” Lucas said. “I’m looking forward to the transition.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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