Oct. 9—LAWRENCE — Central Catholic senior Michael "Mikey" Lane Jr. is yet another blue-chipper headed to the incomparable University of Alabama football program.
While the North Andover resident may not have the size of fellow incoming freshman Jaheim Oatis, a 6-4, 370-pound lineman, he should be another valuable addition for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama football players are plenty tough, but they still may have to take a backseat in that department to the 5-8, 125-pound Lane.
He has endured 55 surgeries in his 18 years to cope with his VACTERL association, which is defined as "a nonrandom association of birth defects that affects multiple anatomical structures."
Many were back and heart surgeries.
That hasn't prevented Lane from being an invaluable member of a slew of Central teams as a team manager. This dates back to his days at St. Michael's School in North Andover when his sisters Caitlin (CC '15) and Megan (CC '18) were playing for Central.
He'll be heading to Tuscaloosa in July.
"I'm really excited," said Lane, who plans to study sports management and hopes to become a football coach. "It's a legendary program."
O'BRIEN REACHES OUT
His dad, Mike Sr. (Class of 1988), and uncle Chris Lane ('90) are Central Catholic Hall of Famers. Their older brother, Billy ('85), was another Central star. Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, Mike Sr.'s good friend growing up in Andover, contacted the Lanes about Mikey joining the program.
Mikey explained, "I never thought of Alabama until last winter. Bill O'Brien got the job (after seven years as head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans). He talked to my dad and said I could be a manager. I toured in August and really liked the school and atmosphere."
He's already met legendary head coach Nick Saban.
"He walked into Coach O'Brien's office and I met him," said Lane. "Coach O'Brien said I'd be a manager and he (Saban) said he'd love to have me.
"As soon as I got the offer from Alabama, I knew I'd go. I talked to some of the managers. It's non-stop work but I'm excited for it. And I'll travel as a freshman."
Before Alabama, Mikey was considering a lot of bigtime schools to continue his managing career including Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland (sister Caitlin is a graduate) and Kentucky (where sister Megan is a student).
BONDS WITH COACH A.
Lane's drive and love of sports and Central Catholic, have made him one of the state's top managers. He wants to shine at 'Bama, too, and already has picked the brains of the Kenneally brothers, Jason at Arizona State and Sean at Arizona, Central grads from North Andover who are college football managers.
Growing up Mikey's first love was basketball. But at Central, he fell in love with football and gushes when talking about his relationship with Raider football coach Chuck Adamopoulos, the Saban of the Merrimack Valley Conference.
Adamopoulos was an assistant at Central when the Lane boys starred for the Raiders and was head wrestling coach when Mike Sr. was a star on the mats.
Mikey said, "It brings me a lot of happiness, it's a family. Coach A. has been a huge part of my life. He's been a mentor and is always there for me. I fell in love with the sport and the guys, the camaraderie with the team. I just love being part of the team."
Adamopoulos delights in teasing Mikey.
"Anytime he gets a little lax with his duties," began Adamopoulos, "I let him know that Coach Saban will stick him in the transfer portal immediately if he tries that in Tuscaloosa."
Ribbing like that is special for Mikey.
Above all, Central football and Raider athletics let Lane be a normal kid despite going through extraordinary circumstances.
Those who know him marvel at how he copes with his many health issues.
Is there a lot of, "Why me?"
Lane answered, "Obviously, some times. But I try not to think about it. I have a great life and great friends. And I'm looking forward to this."
Adamopoulos said, "Being involved with sports has meant the world to him. He is a kid who loves sports and this has given him the opportunity to have a huge involvement in it. The most overlooked benefit ot sports is the feeling of being part of a group working together."
He calls Lane, a football manager for the last seven years, "a ball of fire" and added, "He's very loyal to his team, school and friends."
Adamopoulous can't help but laugh talking about Mikey's "mischievous smile."
Mikey may or may note have broken a few minor team rules to make sure his football buddies went to the head of the line to get their pick of the sweet new football jerseys!
He's not able to play, but he's a Lane and athletics mean the world to him. He has the Lane (and Goddard!) family good looks and competitiveness.
His dad and uncles and sisters were standouts at Central and his sister Megan dates the great Central Catholic and Vanderbilt All-American baseball player Dom Keegan.
"I want to win," said Mikey, the grandson of William Lane Sr., retired president of Holy Family Hospital. "There is a lot of passion."
And when he refers to the Raider football team he says, "I try to be a good teammate and be there for everyone."
To be sure, he's a popular kid on Hampshire Street.
When he tweeted in late September that he'd be joining the Alabama football program, it got 212 likes and 50 retweets.