Editor's Note: This is the 13th in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012.
Jordan Lucas could play safety or cornerback for the Nittany Lions.
Jordan Lucas had done enough to become a major-college football player during his superlative career at New Rochelle High School in New York.
He just didn't feel he had done enough to become a major-college student.
So Lucas decided to spend a year at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, working to get his grades up and learning what it took to get accustomed to new surroundings. As a result, Penn State got an older and wiser defensive back in its Class of 2012.
"I feel it was the best decision of my life," Lucas said last month. "To go to Worcester and really seeing how it is being away from home to focus on my studies. I realized so much about myself from being there."
Roughly one third of Worcester's 500 upper-school students, including post-graduates like Lucas, participate in the school's boarding program. As he discovered, there is little time to do much other than attend class, study and participate in school activities.
"Jordan was a bright young man but he hadn't done the work necessary leading up to this year," Worcester head football coach David Dykeman said. "What he did at Worcester was unbelievable."
In the classroom, Lucas worked his way onto the honor roll. On the football field, he became a more versatile player, seeing time at wide receiver, running back and quarterback on offense and cornerback and safety on defense. He made some of his biggest contributions as a return man, taking back three punts for touchdowns -- in the first two games of the season alone.
"I feel like I have good vision and I can see the whole field," said Lucas, who hopes he'll have a chance to return kicks at Penn State. "I just like the feeling when I have the ball and people are running at me. It's all natural; I don't have to think."
Lucas also honed his coverage skills at Worcester by going head-to-head with one of his teammates -- four-star wide receiver Canaan Severin, who will play at Virginia this fall -- every day in practice.
"They loved it," Dykeman said. "They'd go against each other pre-practice, post-practice. They'd be going one-on-one at the track against each other."
The 6-foot-1 Lucas played at 172 pounds at Worcester but, with the help of some late-night peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, bulked up to 189 during the offseason. He will most likely play safety at Penn State but could see time at corner as well. He was well aware of the opportunities for early playing time in a thin Penn State backfield even before it was announced last week that cornerback Derrick Thomas had left the team.
"Coach was talking to me about that all the time," Lucas said. "He would send me little messages like, 'Be ready when you get here. We need you to hit the ground running.'"
Lucas had been ready to enroll early at Temple this past January before he became the first prospect to commit to Bill O'Brien, a distinction he said he takes pride in. He will turn 19 in early August and, unlike his freshman classmates, already has a pretty good idea of what college life will be like.
"I've been away from home, I know the responsibilities I have to take on," he said. "I feel like I have an advantage. All I have to worry about is school."