Adam Lucero has been Mr. Football in San Juan County for several years, but he can now call himself king of the state.
Lucero, a senior at Aztec High School, was given the Mr. Football award Tuesday morning from NMPreps.com. The quarterback narrowly edged Clovis junior running back Kamal Cass in a vote that was decided by NMPreps.com subscribers, staff and online fan voting.
“I am very proud to win the award. I have taken some time to look back and see what all has happened in my football career. A lot has happened,” Lucero said. “My freshman year, Brycson King went down with an injury, and I started at quarterback. It was tough. Playing in a program and community like this forces you to grow up fast and I have had the right family, coaches and friends behind me through the whole process.”
Lucero won the fan voting portion while Cass won the vote of NMPreps.com subscribers. In the end, the decision came down to NMPreps.com Executive Kyle Henderson and his staff.
“It was a very tough decision but, in looking at the whole picture, Lucero is the man,” Henderson said. “The Mr. Football award goes to the best of the best high school football players. There are several factors that go into it. It isn’t just about who put up 5,000 yards. We look at on-field production, character, leadership, how much a player has impacted a team, how far they took a team in a season and what kind of obstacles they overcame.
“Adam Lucero is a perfect fit for Mr. Football. I am a huge fan of the kid, and it goes beyond his play on the field. If you had a son, you would want him to be like Adam Lucero. That is the kind of guy we want winning Mr. Football.”
Lucero finished with 3,423 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air in 12 games this season.
It was a year filled with adversity for the senior leader, who was once again one of the state’s top defensive backs and punters to go along with his quarterback duties. Lucero had to learn a new offensive system under a new head coach, Matt Steinfeldt, and he also dealt with the death of wide receiver and best friend Andrew Pope.
“I truly believe God will give you trials and tests to see how strong you are,” Lucero said. “I really appreciate all the support I have had this last year. After everything we went through as a team, I think we did OK.”
Cass, finished with 2,580 yards and 36 touchdowns this season for Clovis, earning him the Gatorade Player of the Year Award.
“The Gatorade Player of the Year comes from out of the state and is done for marketing purposes. They have never seen a single game in New Mexico,” Henderson said. “We believe Mr. Football is the true award. Everyone will always remember the Mr. Football award. People may look back and wonder who was on first or second team all state or how many yards a guy might have had, but Mr. Football is remembered forever.”
Lucero took an advantage in the voting after Aztec’s historic 61-55 overtime win in the 4A state quarterfinals at Artesia.
“To beat Artesia in the Bulldog Bowl, that is what really caught my eye,” Henderson said. “His numbers in that game were ridiculous. He had 394 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. That is just balling out in a big-time game, and there is no bigger stage than Artesia.
“For him to resurrect the team when it mattered most and then take the semifinal game against Los Lunas down to the wire, that is what being Mr. Football is all about,” Henderson said.
Defeating Goddard in the 2011 state championship game also caught the eye of Henderson. Though the award is based on a player’s single-season accolades, Henderson said he couldn’t help but think of the Goddard game and Lucero’s Superman dive into the end zone on a two-point conversion that gave the Tigers a one-point victory.
Before the 2012 season began, Lucero was also named the NMPreps.com Elite 100 Combine Most Valuable Player.
By winning the award, Lucero joins the ranks of players such as Landry Jones (Artesia 2006, 2007), Dante Carlo (Las Cruces 2008) and Cole Guatsche (Cleveland, 2011). Ryley Hegarty and Brycson King were nominees in previous seasons, but Lucero is Aztec’s first finalist and winner.
“The first thing I noticed when I got on the website and saw who had won the award previously was that Landry Jones had won it two years in a row. Now I am in a category with him,” Lucero said. “It is an honor to be named among them, and I am more than happy to see my name beside all those great players.
“Growing up, I looked at Hegarty and King and they were my heroes. They were two great quarterbacks, and I am very proud to be the first Aztec player to win the award.”
This year also marks the first time in the short history of the award it has been handed to a player who did not reach the state championship game.
“Not winning a state title doesn’t mean you aren’t a winner. Lucero is a winner on and off the field,” Henderson said.
As Lucero chases his Division I football dream in the next few months, he won’t be afraid to mention he was Mr. Football in the state of New Mexico in 2012.
“That is going to be one of the first things I tell coaches. When coaches call, I tell them I won the MVP at the Elite 100 Combine. That is something my dad and I are pretty proud of,” Lucero said. “To be able to say this now, it goes beyond that. Hopefully coaches are impressed.”