What does football mean to you?

It is a question that Jason Houghtaling, the head football coach at Wagner College, often poses to his players. It also happens to be one that has taken on a new meaning for former Cony High School quarterback Ben Lucas.

“It really is just a family,” Lucas said in a phone interview shortly after the Seahawks’ practice Monday morning on Staten Island, New York. “It’s being a part of a team and creating a really good brotherhood and having nice camaraderie.”

It is also something that was missing in Lucas’ life for the previous year.

After initially committing to play at the University of Maine, Lucas elected not to join the Black Bears last August — shortly after he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder. He ultimately transferred to Wagner and five months later began taking classes at the school, but the injury limited Lucas to being a non-contact participant in the team’s spring practices.

Now, that is all behind the Augusta native. When Wagner opened training camp last week, Lucas was back on the football field, playing the sport that has become more than just a game for the former Cony great.

“Any time you get an opportunity to play college football you get antsy no matter what, but especially after a year of having the game taken away from you, it definitely makes it better that you get the opportunity to do it,” Lucas said. “I learned that, for the most part, football is more than just a game. It really is kind of like a lifestyle.”

What remains to be seen, however, is if the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Lucas will continue to be a quarterback.

In his final season at Cony, Lucas played in 13 games, completed 222 of his 369 passes for 3,842 yards, 41 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also had a sterling quarterback rating of 119.5. He led the Rams to Class B state championship and went on to win the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy.

Lucas admits, though, that while the shoulder is feeling alright, he does not have the same arm strength that he had in his spectacular senior season.

“I don’t have quite the same zip on the ball that I had before but that’s one of the things I’m trying to work out through the training camp,” he said. “There’s different things that I have to do because I don’t have the same arm strength as before.

“…Taking time off from the game you lose some things like your reads and everything like that that you don’t see when you’re injured. Right now we’re still sticking at quarterback. I’m working hard at that and trying to solidify my spot there.”

Houghtaling said they are still in the process of trying to figure out where Lucas will fit best, but did mention offensive line and tight end as possibilities if he can not crack the depth chart at quarterback.

“Throughout the history of football high school quarterbacks have changed positions at a higher rate than any position out of high school,” said Houghtaling, 34, who is the third youngest coach in Division I. “You recruit a bunch of high school quarterbacks and they’re generally the best players on their team in high school and they can play a number of different positions.

“If you look at our starting tight end right now, who was a preseason all-conference pick, he was a high school quarterback. You look at one of our starting receivers, he was high school quarterback. You look at another tight end, he was a high school quarterback.”

While Lucas is hopeful that he can stay under center, ultimately he said he is committed to doing what is best for the team.

“My first responsibility is Wagner College and what I can do to help the team win games and be playing late into November and early December,” he said. “We’re just trying to improve as a team and figure out the ways that we can win a (Northeast Conference) championship and make it into the NCAAs.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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