Kansas State's Lockett in striking distance
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Hays Daily News
MANHATTAN -- Tyler Lockett is not necessarily a patient wide receiver.
But he is meticulous.
Much like his father Kevin Lockett and uncle Aaron, two of the top wideouts in school history, he has made the steady improvement over his Kansas State University career to the point that he is ready to replace the previous generation in the books.
So after receiving all-Big 12 and All-America honors as a kick returner his first two years -- he scored two kickoff return touchdowns both as a freshman and sophomore -- Lockett declared himself ready to do the same as a receiver last fall.
The result, despite an injury that cost him one game and part of another, was a breakout performance of 81 catches for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns, putting him within striking distance of his father's career records in all three categories.
"Tyler is a young man who puts in a lot of work," said K-State receivers coach Andre Coleman, whose own Wildcat career overlapped with Kevin Lockett's in 1993. "It is no surprise to me that he had the type of success that he had last year."
So what does Tyler do for an encore? He needs 75 catches, 838 yards and nine touchdowns to break the record.
"I had a great year at kickoff return, then last year I had a great year at receiver," he said. "So I want to be able to put both of those things together to where it's not just like, 'Oh, he's succeeding in one area,' but 'He's succeeding all around and you can't just put him in this category or that category.'
"I think the biggest thing is I want to know more about myself and learning more about the game. I think one of the things that I want to be able to work on more is just getting down the technique part to where I don't even have to think about anything anymore and it's just basically going off of your reactions."
In other words, perfecting his craft, which according to K-State coach Bill Snyder is a family trait.
"Tyler has taken perhaps the same road as Aaron and Kevin did when they were in our program," said Snyder, who coached all three. "(They) worked diligently at trying to be better people, better family members, better players, better students, etc., day in, day out.
"He's an extremely hard worker."
Quarterback Jake Waters, who combined with Lockett for a majority of last year's numbers, said seniors Lockett and Curry Sexton, both possess that work ethic.
"You need guys like that on your team," Waters said. "To have your two best receivers -- arguably your two best players -- be the hardest workers out there is special."
Snyder has said that Tyler combines elements of his uncle's speed and his father's pass-catching ability. Lockett, a slight 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, also credits attention to detail and a willingness to learn for making him one of the nation's most feared receivers.
"Coach Coleman's been there, he's done that," he said of his position coach, who made a name for himself in the NFL as a kick returner. "He comes back and he's teaching us everything he's learned at the next level.
"He says the game is 70 percent mental, so it's being able to beat your defender mentally, already knowing what he's going to do before he even does it."
That knowledge has made Lockett a confident receiver as well.
"I think the biggest thing is just learning how to perfect your gift," he said. "Because regardless of what they throw at you, you understand what you can do to get open, what you can do to be a decoy or what you can do to block a certain person.
"I think the more I'm able to work on my gift in every single area that I'll be OK for whoever might guard me."
Junior Morgan Burns, a first-year starter at cornerback for the Wildcats, said Lockett has both helped and humbled him as he completes his transition from high school running back to full-time defender.
"I have one of the best training grounds in Tyler Lockett, and going against him daily makes it hard, but it makes me a better player," said Burns, who like Lockett is one of the faster Wildcats. "Tyler is one of the best out there and he's very fast.
"I've never been tested with speed like his."
With preseason accolades piling up on the heels of last year's All-America recognition, Lockett said he has tried to remain grounded.
"There were times (last year) that I had to keep telling myself no matter how great a game you had, you have to remember how you got here and you've also got to stay true to yourself and stay true to what you know," he said. "I would say that my faith got me here a lot and I would say that's been the biggest part for me, just staying true to God.
"As many blessings as he gave me, he could take them away at any moment. So it's not forgetting where I came from."