APTOS -- Mike Lucas can't breathe on his own, yet he can yell at the top of his lungs for the San Francisco 49ers.
He can't move most of his muscles, yet he can grin ear to ear whenever his favorite NFL team scores a touchdown.
Mike, a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, can't do it by himself, but with the help of his parents, Joe, 89, and Sylvia, 88 — who are equally devoted to the team in crimson and gold — he hasn't missed a game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in more than seven years.
"If it's a 10 o'clock game (on Sunday), we go to Mass on Saturday, because we never miss Mass," said Sylvia Lucas.
"God comes first, then the 49ers," piped in Mike, 44.
The Lucases may not have the most autographed trinkets nor throw the biggest parties, but when it comes to 49ers superfans in Santa Cruz County, it would be tough to find a family that goes to greater lengths to show its devotion to the team.
"Even though it takes a lot for them to get to games, the team brings them life and joy, so much so that they are season ticket holders," wrote national track standout Maggie Vessey -- Joe and Sylvia's granddaughter -- in an email. "They're out there no matter what to cheer on their team. It's really remarkable."
Joe had been a 49ers fan since he moved West, trading in his allegiance to his hometown Chicago Bears. Mike uncovered a love for the team shortly after graduating from Aptos High. Sylvia, meanwhile, admits she had more interest in cricket than football until the family started making its Sunday pilgrimages, come rain, wind or sunshine, to their seats along the wheelchair row in Section 19 on the south side of "The Stick."
Niners games had become a can't-miss affair in the Lucas house since Mike fell 12 feet off the Spreckels Drive bridge in Aptos while out celebrating his 30th birthday and became paralyzed from the neck down. A few years ago, he started holing away part of his monthly stipend until he had enough to buy three season tickets.
"I have always been a fan, but after my injury in 1997, TV just wasn't enough," Mike wrote in an email via a computer he controls with his breath. "I felt that so much of my life was limited because of not only the paralysis, but not even being able to take a breath on my own, that I needed more in life. After attending a couple games with my friends' tickets, I just had to be at Candlestick on my own with my parents, so saving money for my own season tickets was a must."
Joe and Sylvia say they're tickled to go along, even though game-day trips from their Aptos home start at 6 a.m. and they rarely arrive home before 9 p.m. In addition to the typical tasks of loading up the barbecue and tailgating fare, they must prep Mike for the long day -- manually clearing mucous from his lungs, draining his catheter and making sure the batteries to his ventilator and wheelchair are charged. The drive up dilapidated Highway 101 can be rough on everyone. Mike bounces around in the wheelchair and the vibrations wreak havoc on the two titanium rods in Sylvia's back and her replaced hip and knee.
"It's all for the love of the game," Mike said. "We go through a lot."
Once they're there, though ...
"We enjoy the hell out of it," Joe said.
"It's so nice because we know all the people," Sylvia added. "We get hugs and kisses, so it's like we're a little family."
The Lucases are trying to sop up that family atmosphere while they can, because they won't have it for long. When the team moves to Santa Clara after the 2013 season, the Lucases say they can't afford to move with it.
Good thing Mike can yell just as loud and grin just as big while rooting on the 49ers from home.
It may change his perspective but, rest assured, he said, "It won't change our faith."