MANHATTAN, Kan. — The comparisons were inevitable from the moment that Tyler Lockett signed his national letter of intent a couple of years ago to play wide receiver at Kansas State.
After all, the former standout at Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School is the son of Kevin Lockett, who helped the Wildcats reach national prominence in the 1990s. And he’s the nephew of Aaron Lockett, who also played at Kansas State during coach Bill Snyder’s first go-around.
That’s quite the pedigree. Quite the pressure, too.
But in his first two seasons in Manhattan, the youngest of the Locketts has allowed all of that potential stress to slip right off his shoulders. He was such a dynamo returning kicks as a freshman that several organizations voted him an All-American on special teams, and his play so dazzling a year ago that he was voted second-team All-Big 12 by The Associated Press.
Now, about all those comparisons? Well, maybe they’re a bit unfair – to good `ol pops.
“I’ll tell you what, I ain’t going to say he’s twice the player his father was,” K-State wide receivers coach Andre Coleman said, “but he’s a time and a half the player his father was.”
Coleman would know better than just about anybody.
He played alongside Kevin Lockett during the 1993 season, back when Kansas State was still building from also-ran, clinging-to-Division-I status to a national power. The two of them spent hours together in the wide receivers room, giving Coleman an up-close look at the first real breakout star for the Wildcats since quarterback Lynn Dickey in the late 1960s.
Kevin Lockett would eventually set nearly every receiving record at Kansas State, and his brother Aaron would etch his name into the books when he arrived on campus a few years later.
“It is a little strange to be coaching `Little Lockett,’ having played with his father,” Coleman said. “Kevin is a good friend of mine, we stay in touch. I got a chance to see him over the spring when he came up to practice. That’s the special thing about this.”
Coleman admitted that he hasn’t had the gumption to tell Kevin that young Tyler is turning into a better player. But just a look at the stats seems to indicate he’s well on his way.
He caught 44 passes for 687 yards and four touchdowns last season, including a career-best nine grabs for 194 yards in a game at West Virginia. On top of that, Tyler Lockett averaged more than 32 yards on kickoff returns, returning two of them 100 yards for touchdowns.
Of course, all those receptions came from Collin Klein, the Wildcats’ graduated Heisman Trophy finalist. Lockett will be hauling in passes from a new quarterback for the first time this season – either Daniel Sams, the backup last year, or JUCO transfer Jake Waters.
“It doesn’t really matter which quarterback throws the ball, as long as you have that chemistry everything is going to be OK,” Lockett said. “Everything will fall into place.”
OK has never been good enough for Lockett, though.
He’s spent the past two summers working out with the Kansas State quarterbacks, and going back to his high school days in Oklahoma, would spend tireless hours with his father and uncle on everything from catching to route-running.
“With Tyler, the leaps are going to get smaller and small because you get closer to his optimum level,” said Del Miller, who was Kansas State’s offensive coordinator when Kevin Lockett was playing and returned to the program in time to catch the end of Aaron Lockett’s career.
That the young Lockett has already become an established leader as a junior isn’t surprising. His father was a captain for the Wildcats in 1996 and his uncle a captain in 2000 and 2001.
“He comes from a great family,” Miller said, “but he’s such a special athlete. He has great speed and he works extremely hard at it, and he shows great leadership for our team. He’s a great player but also a great young man.”