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A Path of His Own
September 28, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
When Tyler Lockett decided to play football at K-State, his dad said he wanted just one thing for his son - he wanted him to create his own footsteps as a Wildcat.
Now, fast-forward three years to today - Lockett's 21st birthday - and that's exactly what he has done.
The junior wide receiver has marked his footsteps in the K-State football record books, as did both his dad, Kevin Lockett (1993-96), and his uncle, Aaron Lockett (1998-01), during their Wildcat careers, and he has continued to climb the charts during his junior campaign.
"We always knew it would be difficult for Tyler because people would say, 'You're following in your dad and your uncle's footsteps,'" Kevin explained. "We always talked to him about kind of making his own path, creating his own path, and I think Tyler's done a very good job of that."
But to his dad, creating his own path didn't mean just catching passes on the field. To Kevin, it meant building character off the field as well.
"Tyler's always been wise beyond his years, even when he got here and he was 17 years old, it was almost like he was 25 in the way he thought," Kevin explained in the Vanier Football Complex as he got ready to watch his son play in front of 50,000-plus fans. "So many people are proud of Tyler for what he does on the field - and I am one of those - but I am proud of him for who he is as a young man, what he stands for, what he believes, what's important to him in life and that goes well beyond football. To see him mature in that facet of his life as well as do well on the field, as a dad you're just proud at every angle."
So how did he do it? How did the freshman with the name 'LOCKETT' written in bold white letters across his jersey overcome the expectations that K-State fans nation-wide placed on him because of the memories and respect they shared for both his dad and his uncle?
While he admitted it wasn't easy his freshman year, through his steady personal values and a solid trust in God, Lockett said he was able to make it through - just by being himself.
"When I first came here it wasn't just the thinking about what my dad or my uncle did, but whenever I'd go out there and get ready to play in the games, I'd always think about what the fans would be thinking because they'd be saying so many things about me," Lockett said. "I was like, 'Ah they're hyping me up too much, I don't think I'm all that.'
"I think the biggest thing was to focus, to remember what I was doing it for and just know that I'm not my dad, I'm not my uncle. So I cast all my cares upon God and just tried to focus, tried not to worry about all of that and just be me. Being able to do that, I think that has really been able to help me out."
Finding that focus worked for Lockett and was displayed on the football field during the 2011 season he was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and a First Team Walter Camp All-American as a kickoff returner.
In 2012, he was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year after returning 13 kickoffs for 688 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching 44 receptions for 687 yards and four touchdowns - the fourth best all-time for a K-State sophomore.
Continuing his success into this 2013 season, Lockett has already climbed charts after recording back-to-back 100-plus yard games, including a record-breaking 237 receiving yards against Texas last weekend. His 237 receiving yards were the most in a single game in Wildcat history, jumping ahead of Jordy Nelson (2005-07) who recorded 214 yards against Iowa State in 2007.
Even Texas head coach Mack Brown had only good to say about Lockett.
"Let me say, first of all, I don't know if it really matters who covers this guy," Brown said. "This guy is for real. I'm telling you, and I've seen good receivers."
After last weekend, Lockett now sits at five 100-plus receiving games in his career and is tied for fifth all-time with Greg Washington (1988). He is one of only six players nationally named to the Bilentnikoff Watch List and is fifth in the nation in total receiving yards with 469.
A COACH'S DREAM
While many may look up to him for his accolades on the football field, off the field players and coaches around the K-State football program look up to Lockett for that and so much more.
"Certainly he's a talented young guy who runs extremely well, but what I appreciate is the way he works at it and how much he genuinely cares," head coach Bill Snyder said one Tuesday afternoon in Vanier Football Complex. "You could look out the window and, I'm not sure that he's not out there right now catching on a machine.
"Last night, it's 10 o' clock here, our players are finished with practice and he's still out there catching off that machine. He just diligently works at it because he cares and he wants to be as good as he can be. If you've got a whole bunch of guys like that, things are a lot easier."
It didn't take new wide receivers coach Andre Coleman long to realize that Lockett was one of a kind, and as a matter of fact, the former K-State (1990-93) and NFL wide receiver said he couldn't be happier with Lockett so far this season.
"Tyler Lockett is a coach's dream, really," Coleman said. "The kid is going to give you 100 percent every time he is out there. He is going to fight. He is coachable, you tell him something and you see him go out, you see him apply it. The things that I try to teach these guys are the things you teach at the highest level, and he picks them up and he gets better at it, and he gets better at it.
"I think he's going to have a huge season, and it's not for any other reason but that he works hard. He's disciplined and he's probably the most humble kid that I've ever been around."
The two don't even play the same position, and junior linebacker Jonathan Truman relayed the same message as both Snyder and Coleman when asked about Lockett.
"Every time he gets the ball into his hands there's potential for a great play," Truman said. "On the practice field, he's the kind of guy that stays 30 minutes, 45 minutes on the jugs machine practicing catching, and he doesn't even have a problem with catching. It's just that attitude of getting better and better and realizing that he has things to work on too. I feel like he leads by example and people see his attitude to always get better and keep going. I think a lot of people see that and want to imitate that."
When chosen as one of the Wildcats' five captains for the 2013 season, leading by example was exactly what Lockett wanted to do. This season is his first as a team captain, and, from the beginning, it is a position he does not take lightly.
"I didn't know if the players were going to vote for me or not because there's a lot of people who could have been captain," Lockett explained. "To even be brought up into this, to assume this responsibility, I just look at it as a great opportunity and a great experience.
"I'm not somebody that talks a lot and tries to tell people what to do. I try to show people the way to go by my actions, so when I do talk every now and then people will be able to listen because my actions will line up with what I'm saying."
It is evident that coaches and teammates notice the impact Lockett has had on his team this season, but fellow captain, offensive linesman B.J. Finney, said Lockett has been a leader since day one, whether he realizes it or not.
"I'm really proud of Tyler. The first two years he didn't really recognize the power, the leadership, the influence and the amount of followers he had," Finney explained. "This year he's really recognized that and he's stepped up into a leadership role. He's a strong man of faith and he uses his faith to help him lead. He's a great leader and a great player."
OKLAHOMA STATE AHEAD
Next weekend, K-State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) will take on Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. Lockett, who attended Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., won't be far from home and will be up against long-time friend and former high school teammate, Calvin Barnett.
Barnett is a senior defensive tackle for the Cowboys and was a 2012 First-Team All-Big 12 pick last year after leading the Cowboys' defense and helping his team finish the season with a record of 8-5.
This season, Barnett has proven as one of the leading defensive tackles, not only in the Big 12, but also in the nation.
Since Lockett began playing for K-State, Barnett said he's been following his friend's career and said he isn't surprised with the success Lockett's seen between the white lines.
"Tyler has always been like a little brother to me," Barnett said. "In high school, he was a year younger than me, but his class and my class, they were like our little brothers and they looked up to us. Even though he was one of the younger ones, he just always did everything right."
Though next Saturday the two will face off as foes on the field, the friendship between them will still be there - after the game, that is.
"It's a bittersweet visit," Barnett laughed. "I told him before, when we cross paths, I've got to do what I've got to do and it's the same way with him. I just keep telling him to keep working hard. I know he won't slow down, and I just hope my team does what they can do to stop him, but I hope all the best to Tyler at the end of the day."
In the end, while Lockett has a lot of people out there cheering for his success, the value of family preached so vividly throughout the K-State football program is perhaps one value Lockett cherishes among the most.
On game days, you can find Lockett's nine-year-old little brother, Sterling, sporting an oversized No. 16 jersey. While Sterling might just be Lockett's biggest fan, Lockett might just be Sterling's biggest fan, too.
"We have a little bet going on," Lockett laughed, his face brightened up and his smile got bigger with the opportunity to talk about his brother. "He says, 'Lets see who can score the most touchdowns on Saturdays,' because he plays on Saturdays too - he ended up beating me last week."
While Lockett has, no doubt, made a name for himself during his first three years in purple, there's no way around his strong family heritage at K-State, and it's something he will always be proud of.
And who knows, maybe, later down the road, there will be another Lockett on the horizon for K-State football.
"He plays wide receiver," Lockett continued about his little brother. "My dad coaches him and he wants to be able to come here too. So to be able to have a brother like that that's just great."