BERKELEY –Lucas King finally figured out the best way to get in to Memorial Stadium for a Cal football game.
Simply become a member of the Cal football team.
King, a Berkeley native who spent his childhood finding creative ways to get into Memorial Stadium, realized a lifelong dream when he joined the football program in 2010. Now in his season at Cal, King is an integral part of the Bears’ playing rotation at linebacker and on special teams, regularly running around the field he worshipped as a child.
“I really wanted to come here,” said King, who has played in all eight games this season including his first career start and has 18 tackles and a fumble recovery. “It was almost one of those things that was too perfect. When it happened, I was so excited.”
King didn’t need a tour of the stadium when he arrived on campus. He went to countless games as a kid, working the concession stands while in middle school and otherwise attending with friends or making the trek up to Tightwad Hill.
Cal football players seemed untouchable to him. He never thought he would actually be able to follow in their footsteps and wear the Blue & Gold.
“When I came to games as a kid, they were like Gods to me,” King said. “One of my routes home from school to a friend’s house was to go on Piedmont by the stadium. That was my route. I went by the stadium all the time.”
King worked the concession stands above the South end zone from fifth through eighth grade, pouring drinks and applying hot cheese to nachos among other duties. He has unending memories of games, including Cal’s win over Tennessee in 2007 in which he made sure he didn’t miss the pivotal beginning from his perch up in concessions.
“I remember peeking over the fence back there at the concession stand trying to watch the first play,” King said. “I remember Zack Follett just killed their quarterback and we picked up the ball and scored a touchdown. DeSean Jackson’s return against them was huge. This crowd got lit up for that.”
Some of King’s other vivid memories are Cal’s rout of Oregon and quarterback Dennis Dixon in 2006 as well as Marshawn Lynch’s victory lap in a golf cart after an overtime win over Washington that same year.
Too bad King didn’t actually see the ending to that Washington game.
“I was here the whole game and I was with my friends,” King said. “A girl that I was talking to texted me and asked me to come hang out with her outside the game. I thought they would be able to pull it off, so I left. As soon as I walk out of the stadium, I hear the cannon go off and pandemonium erupts. I couldn’t get back in. I was trying to find out what happened. Of course, I’ve seen it on ESPN for the last 10 years.”
There was a time during King’s senior year of high school that he thought he would never make it to Berkeley. Early in the recruiting process, the Bears’ coaching staff at the time told him they had filled all of their linebacker needs for that recruiting class and were no longer interested. In the meantime, King accepted an offer to play at Idaho State.
But two days before National Signing Day in 2009, Berkeley High School coach Alonzo Carter told King that Cal might be interested again. The next day, Carter texted King while he was sitting in a math class and told him to come to his office right away.
“He had hinted that there may be something coming last minute. I remember being in class being jittery, wondering what was going on,” King said. “I told the teacher I had to go talk to my coach. Coach said, ‘You owe me the biggest favor. You’re going to Cal.’ I thought he was kidding. He told my dad just before he told me and my dad was calling me.”
King ended up grayshirting his first year at Cal, meaning he didn’t enroll in school until the following spring semester. He took some classes at Merritt College that fall and worked out on his own.
When he finally got to Cal and suited up the first time for a game at Memorial Stadium, it was an indescribable moment for King.
“I can’t really describe that,” King said. “There are no words for it.”
King has a wealth of energy and can work a room, a sign of contentment that is not surprising considering his story. He has become close friends with Cal wide receiver Jackson Bouza, who he met on a recruiting visit to Berkeley. The two have been roommates the past three years.
“Lucas is an awesome person to be around,” Bouza said. “He’s definitely a person to remember if you walk into a room and he’s there. He has a very engaging personality.”
Now as his collegiate playing career comes to an end next month and with an expected graduation from Cal next summer, King is relishing every moment of his final season with the Bears. He doesn’t ignore the fact that he’s been able to attend college in his hometown, following in the footsteps of other Cal alums such as Eddie and Sean Young, who also went to Berkeley High.
“This is my last season here, so every practice I kind of look around to see little spots, remembering where I sat for different games,” King said. “I’m kind of soaking it all in right now.”