TULSA — Tyler Lockett saw the football jerseys, the game photos and the newspaper clippings that were framed and hung on the back wall of his grandparents' house. Some were from his father's career. Some were from his uncle's.
He wondered where his pictures were.
“I want to be on The Wall, Papa John,” he told his grandfather one day.
John Lockett looked at the teenager with a twinkle in his eye.
“You haven't done anything, son,” he told him. “You're in junior high. There's gotta be some accomplishments before you get on The Wall.”
He was teasing.
Tyler was not.
“Well, it's not gonna be long,” he said. “I'll be up there.”
After four state titles at Tulsa Washington High and two outstanding seasons at Kansas State, Tyler has several spots on The Wall. For starters, between a No. 85 Jacksonville Jaguar jersey worn by his dad, Kevin, and a No. 14 San Francisco 49ers jersey worn by his uncle, Aaron, are collages celebrating the high school football and basketball titles that Tyler won as a senior at Booker T.
And as Tyler and the Wildcats prepare to return to his home state and face Oklahoma State on Saturday, Papa John gets that twinkle in his eye again.
“Tyler's a pretty determined young man,” he said. “He does some things sometimes that you don't think he can do.”
He is just the latest chapter in The Book of Lockett.
John Lockett was born and raised in Shelby, N.C., a small city with a big sports history. NBA Hall of Famer David Thompson grew up there. So did Bobby Bell, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Floyd Patterson, heavyweight boxing champion.
Lockett played basketball and football and earned a basketball scholarship to St. Augustine's, a historically black college in Raleigh. He played against the likes of Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier.
He remembers sitting in the stands during a tournament the day Frazier scored 68 points and didn't miss a field-goal or free-throw attempt.
“Thank God we didn't have to play them that day,” Lockett said.
John was quite the player in his own right. Now in the hall of fame at St. Augustine's, he played a year of pro ball before knee injuries ended his career.
After serving in Vietnam, he made his way across the U.S. He was going to visit his mom in North Carolina, then heading to Philadelphia to start a job he had lined up with IBM. But when a longtime friend heard about his cross-country trip, she asked him to stop in Tulsa for a visit.
“I'm still here,” John said.
He married that friend in 1971, and John and Beatrice Lockett have been together ever since.
She worked for Shell Oil, he for Occidental Petroleum as a petroleum engineer, and in 1975, they welcomed a son, Kevin. Aaron came along four years later.
They lived in a four-bedroom house on Xyler Street on the far northwest edge of Tulsa. There was plenty of room to roam, a quiet street to ride a bike, a place to put a basketball goal and a space to throw a football in the backyard.
The Lockett boys took to all sorts of sports, but their parents had one hard-and-fast rule.
“We tried to instill into our children that education was always first,” Beatrice said.
John said, “You get your books, and you can play.”
And play, they did.
Basketball. Baseball. Football. Track. They excelled in the Tulsa youth leagues, then at Booker T.
Recruiters came first for Kevin — a stellar grade-point average made him even more attractive — and by his sophomore year, he realized where his future was.
“It was very clear to me by the letters that I was getting that I could be better at football,” he said. “A bunch of Division Is for football and a bunch of smaller schools for basketball.”
Kevin had all but made up his mind that he was going to SMU. He wanted to major in accounting, and the accounting department there was outstanding.
Then, he decided to take one more recruiting visit to K-State.
The trip changed everything.
John Lockett picked up Kevin from the airport after his K-State visit.
John and Beatrice decided that they wanted Kevin to go on recruiting trips by himself. They wanted him to make his own impressions. They didn't want to influence him.
As John drove home, Kevin was uncharacteristically quiet.
Finally, John broke the silence.
“Well, how was the trip?” he asked.
“You know what, Daddy?” Kevin said. “I like Kansas State.”
“Really? What did you like?”
“I liked the accounting department. I liked the school. I really liked Coach Snyder.”
Bill Snyder had only been at K-State a short time, taking over a program widely considered the worst in Division-I football history. Even though the Wildcats were showing signs of coming out of many dark decades, a winning record seemed a long ways off, much less bowl games or conference titles.
But Snyder had said something that resonated with Kevin.
“I'm going to build a program here,” the coach said. “I'm going to be here for the duration. I want you to be a part of that program.”
When John and Kevin got home, they called Snyder. Several K-State coaches made a home visit a few days later.
Not long after, Kevin committed to the Wildcats.
“I don't think he could've made a better choice,” John said.
In Snyder, John and Beatrice saw a man who had many of the same values that they did. Solid academics were vital. High character was mandatory. Hard work was demanded.
Kevin excelled in that system. He became K-State's all-time leading receiver with 217 catches and 3,032 yards, records that still stand today.
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