Detroit Lions offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas was a 14-year-old high school student in Georgia when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. He had left New Orleans only a few weeks earlier, according to ESPN's Michael Rothstein, but some of his family still lived there, including his grandparents and sister Letress.
In the months after the storm, Lucas went back to New Orleans and helped his grandfather gut abandoned houses. He described what he remembers from the experience to ESPN recently.
"I remember having terrible headaches from being around the mold," Lucas said, per ESPN. "Now that was an experience. I would go inside and lay in bed for three or four hours and wouldn't open my eyes. Just being around the mold, if you think about it, those houses had been there for three or four months just sitting there.
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"So when you walk in the house, you don't know if it is carpet or if it is mold. It looked like carpet growing on the floor, growing on the wall."
Lucas, 24, has spent most of the summer filling in for LaAdrian Waddle, who, until last week, was on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while recovering from a partially torn ACL. As the former undrafted free agent has carved out an NFL career for himself, the memories from Hurricane Katrina have stayed with him.
"It was a trying time," Lucas said, via ESPN. "That's why when people ask me about Katrina, I always have to get it out of the way, like, I wasn't there personally but I still went through it. Still went through the heartbreak of losing everything, worrying about my family.
"The only thing I wasn't there for was the flood waters."