By Matt Popchock
What better way to usher in this Valentine’s Day than to give some love to the newest member of the pro sports scene, your Pittsburgh Power? The Arena Football League team is just days away from opening camp in preparation for its sophomore season, so we’re resuming our brand new, hastily-assembled series that introduces you to the soon-to-be-familiar faces on the 2012 squad.
Furthermore, in the spirit of training camp, we’re shifting into “two-a-days”; we’ll profile two players each day through the end of training camp, and in part one of today’s Know Your Pittsburgh Power installment, apropos of the Hallmark holiday, we’ll look briefly at a player who, win or lose, showed a lot of “heart” on the offensive line last season…and also scored a hallmark touchdown.
Mike Lucian (6’3″, 305 lbs.) spent seven games in the 2011 campaign blocking for a revolving door of quarterbacks, not to mention fullback and former fan favorite Josh Rue. But even though he was not a full-time starter, the 25-year-old New Market, Maryland native got to step inside Rue’s shoes and play a pivotal role in helping the team achieve its high-water mark.
Lucian carried the ball only twice for two yards from that fullback spot the entire year, but the first of those carries made a difference. A one-yard plunge right up the gut against the Cleveland Gladiators at CONSOL Energy Center June 4 gave him his first career AFL touchdown, and gave the Power a 28-25 lead at the time. The Power would score again later in the third quarter and go on to win, 35-32, to earn a 7-4 record and temporarily unseat the Gladiators for first place in the East Division.
However, Cleveland would eventually get revenge at home, unseating Pittsburgh for the division title and keeping it out of the American Conference playoffs. The Power limped to a 9-9 finish, and a big part of it was inconsistency and poor health at QB. The same can be said for the men protecting the signal-callers, as the team allowed 34 sacks on the year, which ranked just 15th in the 18-team league.
One other thing that stands out about the home win over Cleveland is that it might have been Lucian’s finest hour. Neither he nor his fellow hogs allowed a single sack or quarterback hurry that night, and the team ran the ball exceptionally well. In fact, the Power, which gained 60 net yards on the ground in that nail-biter, ended the season ranking third in the AFL in average rushing yards per game (36.8).
Now that he’s shown what he’s capable of, he enters camp looking like a good candidate to spell AFL veteran Tyre Young at fullback, and he’ll compete for one of three full-time jobs up front with a half-dozen other prospects that include Tommy Crowley, the only other 2011 returnee from the offensive line, and Jason Jones, who has also played multiple offensive positions with the East Division rival Milwaukee Mustangs.
Politics are certainly on Lucian’s side. He broke into the league in 2010 with the expansion Jacksonville Sharks, where Power head coach Chris Siegfried was an offensive assistant to Jacksonville bench boss Les Moss. The rookie got his start playing good old-fashioned AFL iron man football, as he made four total tackles, and recorded one sack and one forced fumble in spot duty.
Furthermore, Lucian enters camp as a sentimental favorite. The Penn State standout won the Loyalty and Commitment award, as voted on by the team’s coaches, while playing multiple positions over his four years with the Nittany Lions, and when PSU earned a Rose Bowl bid in 2008, Lucian was a regular, helping the team average over 400 offensive yards per game, one of the most productive offenses in Division I. With Lucian, among others, paving the way, that offense racked up 557 in the win over Michigan State that clinched a trip to Pasadena.
This month will end with him likely knowing his fate for the upcoming AFL season, but it began with Penn State alumni everywhere mourning the loss of Joe Paterno. Shortly after that event, Lucian told the media one of his most memorable–and unique–JoePa stories…
WERE YOU AWARE? Lucian’s first-ever arena football experience was actually in another city Pittsburgh football fans love to hate–with the Baltimore Mariners of the American Indoor Football Association, in 2009. It’s fitting, considering he made the all-state high school football team while winning a Class AAA state football championship at Linganore High School, not far from Baltimore, six years earlier. He left Penn State having started on the final AP Postseason Top 25 team of Paterno’s career.
The Power will play their first home game of the season Fri., Mar. 23, when the Philadelphia Soul come to town for an 8:00 P.M. kickoff. The 2012 regular season will feature nine games at CONSOL Energy Center, as well as expanded television coverage:
Click here for more information, including a full TV schedule.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)