An Uncommon Man

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Susan Harman

Your Prep Sports

WEST BRANCH – Brady Lukavsky was deep behind the secondary waiting for the pass to get to him. The game was headed to blowout territory, but it would have been fun to catch it in stride for a 57-yard touchdown, a career first.

Then again a 25-yard gain that set up a teammate’s TD on the next play works just fine.

Later in the game he juked the blocking end and rushed inside to smother a punt that gave the Bears the ball on the opposing team’s 6.

“I rely on my speed (as a defensive end) to get around them, but if not I just fight my way through it,” Brady said.

“He’s a jack of all trades, and he takes pride in whatever we ask him to do,” West Branch football coach Butch Pedersen said.

In the district showdown against Bellevue Lukavsky out-wrestled a taller defender for possession of a key 28-yard catch.

The 5-foot-10, 160-pound junior is a regular West Branch football player: tough, quick and resourceful.

He is also deaf.

You can bet that few of the Bears’ opponents know that unless they play basketball or baseball against him and have seen the outside processors for his cochlear implants. The processor is tucked behind his right ear and underneath his helmet in football. He wears both processors in school, but just one to play football.

“They help me a lot,” Brady said. “Sometimes I go through a hard time not having them when I need them, but I get through it.”

He reads lips, and getting plays in the huddle isn’t an issue. But audibles are a different deal.

“It depends on how the crowd is,” he said. “If the crowd is loud (during an audible) I have to ask my other wideout what number was called.”

His primary concern with the processor isn’t breaking it or having it interfere with his movement. He just doesn’t want to lose it during a game.

“I got lucky when I blocked that punt it fell off, but I saw it and picked it up,” he said. When that happens, he has to remove his helmet to reattach the processor but he is allowed to stay in the game.

“I just think I’m like a normal person playing football,” he said.

Besides his overall competence, his distinguishing characteristic as an athlete is his effort.

“I don’t know where he gets that much energy,” said brother Tanner Lukavsky, a sophomore who leads the Bears in rushing. “Most of us are usually sleeping when he gets up.”

“In my career at West Branch I’ve never had a kid hustle as hard as Brady does,” Pedersen said. “He does everything you want him to do. He’s always positive. He’s like 16 going on 30. He’s very mature; he’s very articulate as far as understanding what’s going on.”

“As long as I’m giving my maximum effort I know I’m not doing anything wrong,” Brady said.

He is an honor student, plays basketball, baseball and golf and plays the drums for show choir.

His deafness is a result of meningitis, contracted at birth.

At one point doctors told his parents that there was nothing more they could do. His survival was a miracle in itself.

Brady’s parents, Josh and Michelle Lukavsky, didn’t understand the extent of Brady’s disability right away.

“They thought he just had a hearing loss because he was pretty clever and a problem solver,” Michelle said. “He would read your lips. We never knew it was as bad as what it was until he started kindergarten.”

Once the diagnosis was confirmed they proceeded with the implants.

“The first time he heard something, I was only like 5 or 6, but it was just amazing,” older sister Bailey said.

“The older he gets the more you just kind of forget about it because he’s got so many gifts everywhere else,” Michelle said. “His vision and like knowing where things are, are unmatched.”

Yes, he was deaf, but even before the implants he had begun to make adjustments by exploiting his other senses and relying on his attention to detail and almost obsessive desire to help others.

Both of his parents were coaches, and when he was just a little boy he helped set up gyms for practice or games. He conducted infield and outfield practice for Michelle’s softball teams when he was 4. If he was hanging out after school waiting for a parent to finish something he wandered down the hall and offered to help other teachers or the janitor.

He always wants to know what’s going on. Nothing escapes his notice. He remembers everything.

“He likes things neat and orderly, so if things are out of place, even at school, he’ll do it,” Michelle said. “I’ll get emails from teachers who say they don’t really know when he’s in class because he’s usually doing something in the school to make it better. Any free time he gets, he’ll go help set up something.”

His nickname is ‘assistant athletic director.’

“He sets up the gym,” boys basketball coach Tom Burger said. “If you need an extension cord, he knows exactly where it is. He’s got an attitude that’s really valuable.”

His own game is in progress and the lights flicker? Brady finds and corrects the problem.

Principal Shannon Bucknell said last season that Brady prepared the baseball field before and between games of a doubleheader and caught both games.

However, even an assistant athletic director has challenges. The processors are very expensive and can be damaged by perspiration in addition to the obvious perils of sports.

Brady secures the processors with a headband in basketball. It’s been hard for Michelle and Josh to listen to other fans assume that their son is trying to show off by wearing the headband.

“And of course your heart just wrenches,” she said. “No, he’s just trying to keep the $4000 equipment on his head.”

Burger and Pedersen, his assistant in basketball, use a microphone to talk to Brady when he’s on the court.

“That gets kind of hairy because you hear no matter what, and Butch has been known to yell into the mic at somebody else,” Michelle said. “Every once in a while you see Brady jump when he yells something.”

Part of being 16 going on 30 is taking responsibility.

“That’s one thing he never does,” Pedersen said. “He never blames (mistakes) on his disability. He never says I didn’t hear you.”

Which is what you would expect from an assistant athletic director.