Former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas debuted in 1996 and retired in 2003, playing for the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins and Ravens. His career stats weren’t exactly eye-popping – 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions – but his impact off the field has been palpable.
Last year, Lucas released Under Pressure: How Playing Football Almost Cost Me Everything and Why I’d Do It All Again, a tell-all book about his NFL life, from repeated concussions to rampant drug addiction.
“It’s a story of before football, a story of after football, a story of addiction and overcoming all and coming out on the other side,” the 42-year-old said on Tiki and Tierney. “When you read my book, it’s kind of crazy. People don’t realize 1,400 pills a month is a lot of pills. Sometimes 50 to 80 a day, at some point. It was a dark place. But when I tell my story and you hear the word ‘addict,’ you think of a bum on the street or a heroin addict – and I’m none of those. I was a functioning addict.
“To come out on the other side, I always tell my story – not just for the football player that’s suffering in silence, but for your uncle or your brother or your aunt or your sister who’s also struggling with opiate dependency. I just want to give people hope that you can come out on the other side no matter how bad it is. I don’t think too many people are getting past 1,400 pills a month and still (living).”
Lucas’ addiction, of course, was brought on by the game he loved – and loves. In retirement, he serves as an advocate for player safety and tries to raise awareness about the health risks that come with playing football, especially at the youth level.
That said, he’d still let his sons – if he had any – play football if they wanted to.
“God’s blessed me with three daughters,” Lucas said. “We were trying to adopt. And if I had a son and he came to me and asked me (if he could play football), the answer would be unequivocally yes. I’ve gotten so much from football – the discipline, the teamwork, the sacrifice. And people say, ‘Well, what makes you different?’ I’m battle-tested. I was put in situations where my decisions either won or lost us the game. It’s no different in business world today. You still got to make those decisions. Can you handle the pressure? The positives outweigh the negatives.”
And for those reasons, Lucas can’t turn his back on the game that gave him so much. Plus, the most dangerous sport, he said, is actually cheerleading.
“That’s where you get hurt the most,” he said. “But my kids cheer. Am I going to stop them from cheerleading because they may get hurt?”
No, Brandon Tierney said, but you may stop them from dating the stud point guard.
“Without a doubt,” Lucas said, laughing. “Without a doubt.”