Anthony Lucas didn't put his first helmet on until his freshman year.
And that was after talking his dad into letting him play football.
"He wanted me to play just my senior year," Lucas said. "So my mom convinced him enough."
Freakishly athletic at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, Lucas has stood out on the football field at Scottsdale Chaparral as a defensive line force, leading to 20 major-college football offers.
And his junior season is just now starting on Friday at Scottsdale Saguaro.
Coach Brent Barnes may be using him some at tackle or tight end on offense this year, but he won't miss too many, if any, defensive snaps, moving from the nose to the end.
"He'd be a heck of a tight end," Barnes said. "He'll be able to come in and make some plays. We've already seen it a lot in practice. He moves really well for his size. And obviously, we expect him to be a physical blocker when he's in there.
"He's very natural, too, whether it's running a stick route. He understands spacing, being a basketball player. He handles those things really well. It's kind of natural for him being an athlete."
Lucas said he grew up playing basketball and baseball. He still plays those sports at Chaparral.
"Anthony is a very special person and athlete," Chaparral basketball coach Dan Peterson said. "He brings a genuine excitement and enthusiasm to our program and is always very uplifting towards every player and coach. He is a fierce competitor and works tirelessly to improve his skill set on the court.
"Anthony is a natural leader because of his approach to every drill, every practice and every game – he gives every ounce of energy that he has and demands that his teammates do the same,'' he added. "He will play a major role for us over the next two seasons as he continues to develop on the court. He is definitely an exciting player to watch and to be around. Perhaps the greatest attribute Anthony possesses is his encouraging demeanor and high character.”
Lucas was convinced to try football by a former Chaparral football player who saw him in the eighth grade when he was checking out his future high school on campus.
"He saw me at orientation and he was like, 'You've got to play football,' " Lucas said.
Lucas is glad he did. Now he's got his pick of Power 5 football program before he leaves Chaparral.
He is rated by The Arizona Republic as the No. 2 overall prospect in the state for the 2022 class, behind Chandler Hamilton quarterback Nicco Marchiol.
Lucas is a 247Sports Composite four-star, rated 11th in the country at defensive tackle in his class. He is rated the seventh-best DT in the nation by 247Sports and 95th overall.
He was able to get some basketball in during a club showcase during the pandemic. And it's been tough to get into the Chaparral weight room with the school closed down for much of the summer.
But he found a way to work and get stronger.
"We haven't been able to get into the gym together, but we all did our own workouts to be prepared for the season," Lucas said. "I think we'll get back into it over time."
Facing the arch rival right off the bat only motivates Lucas. Saguaro won six consecutive state titles before being elevated into the first Open Division playoffs last year, reaching the final before losing to 6A powerhouse Chandler 42-35.
"Hey, it's one of the best teams," Lucas said of Saguaro. "You know we've got to go out there and show it to them."
Saguaro's got maybe the best offensive line in the state, led by Bram Walden and Parker Brailsford.
Lucas knows it's going to be a challenge, but one he looks forward to.
"Bram is a beast," Lucas said. "It's going to be a tough challenge."
Barnes got after his players after Monday's morning practice, feeling there wasn't enough energy, especially this being Week 1 since the pandemic shut down spring ball last May and with Saguaro on tap.
But he knows he's got an experienced team, the result of so many injuries to starters last year that forced backups to get time.
One of those guys is junior quarterback Brayten Silbor, who started for an injured Jack Miller in last year's game against Saguaro and passed for 301 yards and a touchdown, completing 23 of 40 passes in a 38-24 loss.
"He has that personality, doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low," Barnes said. "He's very even keel. There's never going to be a moment too big. He's not going to get too amped up.
"He just goes about his business. That's been very productive for him. And I think it calms the nerves of our guys."
Silbor is surrounded by playmakers, from running back Jared Williams (1,000-yard rusher, 21 TDs last season) to receivers Max Minor (30 catches, 534 yards, five TDs) and Capri Hamilton (40 catches, 398 yards, three TDs). Lukas Garvey, a 6-5, 230-pound junior tight end, is expected to make an impact.
"We'll be able to manage," Lucas said.