Centre County sports fans to see 2 familiar faces compete on national television

Tyler Lucas, left, and brother Kyle Lucas will be featured on NBC’s “The Titan Games,” premiering Jan. 3. The brothers were both standout athletes at Bellefonte Area High School, who went on to play football at Penn State.
Tyler Lucas, left, and brother Kyle Lucas will be featured on NBC’s “The Titan Games,” premiering Jan. 3. The brothers were both standout athletes at Bellefonte Area High School, who went on to play football at Penn State. Photos provided

Former Bellefonte football coach Tom Gravish, was not surprised to hear that Kyle Lucas — along with his brother Tyler Lucas — will be featured on NBC’s grueling new physical fitness competition show “The Titan Games.”

As a three-sport athlete for Bellefonte Area High School from 2007-08, Kyle Lucas played linebacker and running back for Gravish, as well as ran track and wrestled for the Red Raiders before moving onto college, where he played football for Lock Haven for two years before walking on at Penn State.

“Kyle was an awesome player for us and teammate for all this teammates. He had incredible strength and was just a person of the biggest integrity,” Gravish said. “I didn’t get a chance to coach his entire career but what a strong player, fearless player, extremely well coachable, just an awesome young man. You always knew he was destined for big things out there with his hard work ethic, positive attitude and strength.”

A few years later, Tyler also moved to Bellefonte from England, where his father was stationed in the Air Force, and became a football and wrestling standout, as well. Tyler followed in Kyle’s footsteps by walking on at Penn State to play quarterback and wide receiver for two years, before transferring to Montana.

It was that experience, growing up playing multiple sports, that Tyler said engrained a sense of discipline and lifelong passion for physical fitness that brought the brothers to where they are today in both their careers with the Unites States Air Force, and competing against some of the nation’s top physical fitness buffs.

“Playing sports taught me to always work hard, put my best foot forward and give 100 percent with whatever I do,” Tyler said. “Being able to play high school sports and stuff and the hard work you have to put in in order to have success and have a chance at the next level and hopefully pro ... that shows how much dedication and time and effort that’s really involved in accomplishing your dreams and getting to the next level.”

Bellefonte running back Kyle Lucas is taken down by a group of Philipsburg-Osceola defenders. Christopher Weddle Centre Daily Times

The road toward becoming a ‘Titan’

Being on reality competition shows is not something Kyle said he had ever planned on doing. Yet, when a friend submitted an application for him to the Netflix show “Ultimate Beastmaster,” Kyle got a taste for what it would be like to showcase his athletic ability on national television.

Although he just missed out on making the cut for that show, the casting producers liked him so much that a year later, when they were casting for the “Titan Games,” they decided to give Kyle a call.

“When I saw The Rock’s ad for the show during the Super Bowl, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m totally going to apply for that show,’ but they gave me a call before I could even get an application in,” he said.

Knowing that his childhood hero Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was hosting the show, Kyle was sold — and recommended Tyler for the show, as well.

“I didn’t really know anything about the show until my brother recommended me,” Tyler said. “I was kind of hesitant at first — do I really want to be on TV, being in the spotlight? Then when I heard The Rock was hosting it, I was like, ‘Hell, yeah.’ ”

The brothers, along with about 100 other competitors, were invited to Los Angeles for the combine, where they were given the opportunity to showcase their physical abilities through a series of obstacles and physical tests, and to be interviewed by producers.

With backgrounds in college football, the Lucas brothers made it through events like the broad jump, high jump, deadlift and obstacle courses with considerable ease.

His ability to “fly” on the monkey bars as a bigger guy — about 230 pounds, and 6 feet, 4 inches tall — was what Tyler said made him stand out to producers.

“I slipped and I almost fell, but I ended up catching myself with one hand. It was just really cool because everyone was watching, I was just moving so fast and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

When the brothers found out that they both made the show together, the feeling was ”ecstatic.”

Tyler Lucas runs the ball during Bellefonte Area High School football practice August 16, 2010. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

A reality reunion

With Tyler stationed in Germany and Kyle in Colorado, the two brothers don’t get a lot of time away from the Air Force to spend time together.

Being together together for the weeklong combine, then a month and a half for taping was more time than the two have gotten to spend together in several years.

“Up until we found out we were going to be on the show, we didn’t know the next time we were going to see each other,” Kyle said. “Not only do we get to compete, but we get to spend time together in California — and that was probably the best part.”

As the younger brother, Tyler said that growing up, he always felt like he was in Kyle’s shadow athletically. And as the two have a three-year age difference and were an ocean — literally — apart through high school, they never got the chance growing up to compete head to head. The “Titan Games” gave them that outlet.

Although the brothers say they’re each other’s biggest supporters — they also hate to lose, and losing to each other is even worse.

“We definitely always were each other’s biggest supporter, except when it comes to the time where we have to compete against each other, and there’ll be bragging rights for the winner,” Tyler said. “It was awesome to go through that experience with him, to be able to cheer him on and have him cheer me on. We were just lucky to be the sole siblings on that show and to be each other’s support system.”

With their competitive natures, the two are constantly looking to get a leg up on the other, whether it’s with what they’re doing in their respective Air Force careers, or in the gym. But it’s that constant competition that both said has pushed them to be better athletes.

“Yesterday, Tyler deadlifted 500 pounds with one hand,” so now I have to figure out something I can do to one-up him. It’s a constant back and forth,” Kyle said Tuesday.

Bellefonte’s Tyler Lucas takes down Indian Valley’s Thomas Hovice on Tuesday, January 12, 2010. CDT/Christopher Weddle

Experiencing ‘The Titan Games’

In addition to bringing the two brothers close together, Kyle and Tyler left “The Titan Games” with 60-plus new friends.

“The one thing I was worried about going into the combine and the show was you got a lot of athletes, a lot of highly talented athletes and you think you’re going to walk into a room full of egos, but everyone was super chill,” Kyle said.

The “Titans” all still stay in touch via a group chat, and one of them even stayed with Tyler and his wife for a week in Germany while traveling through Europe.

The brothers were limited on details they were able to reveal about the show, but both encouraged Centre County residents to tune in at 8 p.m. Thursdays, starting on Jan. 3, to see how they stack up against other top athletes in high-intensity challenges.

“The challenge all were very unique, very awesome and very taxing on your bodies. You have to be mentally focused, mentally prepared for the butt-kicking you’re about to take,” Tyler said. “I definitely have had my fair share of bruises and a bloody hands and stuff like that and I can’t wait for everyone to see these different challenges when the show airs.”

For Kyle, the main takeaway was that he needs to work harder — in the gym and on the mountain trails where he runs and trains in Colorado — to compete with the elite.

“I learned that I’m definitely not working hard enough,” he said. “There are some guys there, some gals there, too, that kill it every day in the gym. I see it on their Instagrams. And it’s pushing me now, like ‘Alright, I can be better, this is what I have to do to get there.’ I definitely learned that there’s a lot more room for improvement.”

Both brothers said should a similar opportunity arise again — either in a second season or a similar show — they’d both jump on it.

Penn State’s Kyle Lucas breaks through the Eastern Michigan line during a game at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, September 24, 2011. Penn State won 34-6. CDT/Joshua Sykes

Lessons learned from high school, college sports

The experiences gained through being multiple-sport athletes as teenagers, including at Bellefonte, is what the brothers said helped them to become well-rounded athletes, as well as develop a lifelong passion for physical fitness and competition.

“I’m very thankful that my parents got me involved in sports at a young age because it’s shaping me into the athlete I am today,” Tyler said. “And the mentality that I have — always working hard, always motivated — that will get you far in life. Those qualities that I gained from playing those sports, they go a long way. They definitely brought some good to my life and all.”

Kyle remembers attending his first Penn State football game as a child in 1998 with his dad and brother, and knowing then that that was what he wanted to do — play football at Penn State.

After two years playing for Lock Haven, Kyle walked on to play for “Linebacker U” from 2010-12, where he “made No. 26 cool” before Saquon Barkley. Tyler played from 2012-13.

“They are known for producing some of the best linebackers in college who go on to be some of the best linebackers in the NFL. So the fact that I was able to impress the coaches enough to be picked up as a linebacker was awesome,” Kyle said. “And to compete with some of these highly talented athletes, future all-pro, NFL-caliber athletes was great, just have a chance to show I can hang with these guys.”

From his Penn State football days, Kyle said he learned important lessons that he has since translated into his personal life and career as a crew chief for the second space operation squadron: Always strive to be your best. Work hard. If you’re on time, you’re late.

Representing the United State military — the Air Force specifically — was also important to the brothers.

“My leadership and everyone I worked with were so supportive, and jumping through hoops to make this happen for me when the opportunity presented itself,” Tyler said of being able to take leave for “The Titan Games.” “I’m very appreciative of their support and granting me this opportunity to represent the Air Force and military as a whole, along with a couple other individuals, too. Without them granting me their support and granting me an opportunity, I wouldn’t have been able to compete on the show.”

Now that the taping for the show is complete, the Lucases are excited to sit back and watch peoples’ reactions as they test their physical strength and mental grit within the Titan arena.

“Everyone in Centre County should tune into ‘The Titan Games’ to watch two of their own, two just ordinary guys going and doing extraordinary things and proving that you don’t have to be some crazy professional athlete to go out and compete,” Kyle said. “You just have to show as long as you put in the hard work day in and day out, you can be great, too.”

Lauren Muthler covers what’s happening right now in Centre County, from breaking news, road closures and weather, to cool and interesting stories she finds along the way. Oh, and Penn State wrestling.