Learning from Locketts

28 Oct

Kevin Lockett always said he did not want to coach. He just wanted to watch his kid play like any other parent does. Eventually, when Tyler was about 14 years old, he asked his dad for more participation in his development as a football player, and Kevin obliged.

Even in a one-on-one coaching capacity, though, the instincts of a father and a coach are different and sometimes make for a tricky combination.

“That’s sort of a difficult balance because at many times, the athlete side of me comes out more than the father side of me, and the athlete side is really pushing me up to continue to strive forward, to continue to make greater leaps and bounds,” Kevin said, “and so at times I think my wife does a really good job of helping me balance that, and reminding me that I am a father and many times I have to just back off and really just encourage him in what he does.”

Apparently Kevin found that balance and Tyler received the instruction well, because just a few short years later, and the son of Kansas State’s all-time leading receiver is getting game time at wide receiver as a freshman and riding a two-game streak of kick returns for touchdowns.

What seems so funny in retrospect is that when the Locketts first began the process of signing Tyler up at Kansas State, they thought he would not see the field in his first season.

“After our conversations with Coach Snyder, we wanted Tyler to redshirt, and I think Tyler wanted to redshirt,” Kevin said. “And I think we really relied on Coach Snyder’s experience in football, and Coach Snyder came back to us and said, ‘Even though most freshman will redshirt, we really think it’s best for Tyler and for our team that he not redshirt.’

The Locketts trusted Snyder, who has been in the business for close to half a century. The decision to play Tyler as a freshman is just one more example of why Bill Snyder is again a candidate for Coach of the Year.

While Tyler has plenty of feedback from the Kansas State coaches now, he still talks to his dad on a regular basis. When he listens to his son’s report from each day’s practice, Kevin again strives to find the balance between coach and father.

“Sometimes I can tell that he just wants me to listen, and sometimes he wants me to provide some advice on ways that he can handle that,” Kevin said. “I try to balance that by providing him encouragement, sometimes providing him advice, and then at times when I see him practice, or if I’m ever up there and I’m able to see some of the film of what he’s doing, then at times I’ll just slip him little notes or little reminders of things that we worked on throughout the summer for him to make sure he’s paying attention to as he goes into the next practice or into the next game.”

Tyler’s equally renowned uncle, Aaron, who is second all-time at Kansas State in punt return yardage and fourth all-time in receiving yards, walks the same thin line when it comes to advice. He has talked to his nephew about how the ball flies, how a returner should position himself, ball security and similar aspects, but he feels like many of the essentials cannot be taught.

“I think for the most part, his natural instincts are something you can’t teach, where to go or how fast to run,” Aaron said. “I think it’s just confidence. You’re a one-man show back there. And what I mean by that is it’s all on you to catch it, it’s all on you to get to where your blocks are set up, and then it becomes a team game, but initially you have to do your part. I think it’s just a no-fear attitude that you just have, and he’s got it in him.”

In addition to the benefit of having acquired football knowledge from his father and uncle over his whole life, Tyler has also been blessed with a combination of their physiques.

“I think he’s built like me,” Kevin said. “I think he’s a little bit ahead of me in regards to where I was physically in terms of size and stature at his age, but I think he has route running ability, his knowledge of the game, always understanding what defense are trying to do to him, and I think the way he catches the ball, he does a really good job of catching the ball with his hands.

“I also see a lot of traits of my brother,” he continued. “He runs more like my brother, his punt return skills obviously come from my brother, and so I think he’s really a hybrid of myself and my brother, and I think he got the best of both of us, which is why as a parent and as an alumnus of K-State football, I expect and hope for him to do more than I was able to do as well as my brother.”

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