Lockett and Barnett Head Home
That's where it all started, junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett and sophomore safety Dante Barnett say about their long-time friendship.
Now the two are college teammates and roommates, and their dynamic has grown into something special.
"Being able to play at the same level and playing on the same team yet again, I think that helps because I've been able to see strengths and weaknesses in him and he's able to do the same with me," Lockett said. "Being able to have somebody that knows your game that's played with you since the fifth grade, I think that that really helps you out."
Though they went to different elementary schools, Lockett and Barnett played for the same football team - the Mustangs - from the fifth grade on, and during the offseason they played for the same basketball team as well. Seeing each other so often made it easy for the two to become fast friends.
"Tyler came to the football field and he was only yay high and I was like, 'Who's this third grader, coach?'" Barnett smiled and remembered back to the early days of playing football with Lockett. "Then the next thing you know, he caught a ball, took off running and scored, and I was like, 'Wow coach, I want to keep him on the team. I like this third grader.'"
Lockett laughed and remembered the incident a little differently.
"I was late coming to the team and I was kind of new at the place we played," Lockett explained. "I think the coach said, 'We have a third grader on the team,' and I just so happened to walk out so they all thought I was in the third grade."
After their elementary years, the two continued on their football paths together playing football for Booker T. Washington High School. They played the same positions on both the offense (wide receiver) and the defense (safety) and stayed side-by-side through it all.
During their senior year of high school, Barnett recorded 100 tackles and nine interceptions at safety and Lockett caught 42 passes for 756 yards and 13 touchdowns at wide receiver. The two helped lead Booker T. Washington to a 13-1 season and a 5A state title.
But it wasn't in just their prominent positions that they both shined. The same year Lockett had 54 tackles and six interceptions on the defense while Barnett recorded 10 touchdowns as a receiver.
"Tyler was the same player - explosive and fast," Barnett said about Lockett in high school. "He played defense and people don't get to see that in college. I got to see the defensive side of Tyler, and I think he could've played it in college, really, if he really stuck to it."
Of Barnett's high school game, Lockett laughed, "He was a ball hog. He went everywhere the ball went. If he was supposed to be on one receiver, somehow he'd wind up on my guy and take the interception."
Today, the two are heading back to their home state as K-State is set to take on Oklahoma State this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.
"I think it means a lot because you get to have a lot of your family members who may not make it to a lot of your games come and visit you," Lockett said about playing in Stillwater. "Also, we'll be playing against former teammates who we got close to in high school and middle school. Just being able to go back and play as close to home as possible, I think that that's a great feeling and a great experience."
Oklahoma State defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and safety Gary Shamiel both played high school football with the K-State duo at Booker T. Washington.
"Tyler has always been like a little brother to me," Calvin said. "His class and my class, they were like our little brothers - they looked up to us. It's a bittersweet visit. I told him before when we cross paths, I've got to do what I've got to do, same way he would have to do to make me miss."
Falling from No. 11 last week in the national polls to No. 21/20 this week, Oklahoma State returns home after a 30-21 loss at West Virginia last weekend. While the Cowboys will, no doubt, be coming out angry after its loss, K-State's bitter loss to Texas two weekends ago has kept the team working hard during the bye-week.
"I think we're hungry as well," Lockett said. "I think that we're still getting energy off of the loss to Texas. We still have a lot of people mad because that's the last thing that we're thinking about, and at the same time, Oklahoma State lost to a great team, West Virginia. You've got two hungry teams that are really going to come out (wanting) to get back on the track that they wanted to get on in the beginning of the season. It's going to be a great game, and I think that we're just going to have to play tough."
Two years ago, during Lockett's freshman year, K-State suffered a 52-45 loss at Oklahoma State. The loss snapped the Wildcats' seven-game winning streak to open the 2011 season, and Lockett totaled 315 all-purpose yards before suffering an injury that kept him on the sidelines for the remainder of his freshman campaign.
Today's game will be Lockett's final time playing in Stillwater as a Wildcat, and while memories of the season-ending injury may still ring clear in his mind, what hurts worse than the injury is the loss.
"When you give it all you have out there, you leave it out there on the field and you still wind up empty and you can't do anything about it, I think that that's the kind of feeling that I've got," Lockett said. "Usually when you give it all you have, you usually come out on top and win, but being able to do that and don't come out with the win, I think that really hurt."
During that game two years ago, Barnett was sitting in the stands watching the loss to the Cowboys, and though he wasn't on the field, he can feel the revenge of his team as it heads back to Oklahoma State.
Mix that feeling with the hunger to win after losing to Texas, and Barnett feels his team is motivated more than ever to get another win this season.
"I'd say that everybody is going to have it in their heart to go out and win this football game," Barnett said.
While some memories of playing at Boone Pickens Stadium may be bitter, Barnett and Lockett are still excited to play so close to home and are ready to show family and friends exactly what they are made of.
"I love it," Barnett said. "I have a lot of friends and family out there. Oklahoma State is down the street, 45 minutes from home, so a lot of my high school teammates and friends go to that school. I'm going to feel like I'm at home."