Tyler Lockett gets it.
Not just being a kickoff and punt returner. Last week in Seattle’s exhibition opener, he took the second ball he touched 46 yards to midfield. He took the fourth one 103 yards to the end zone. He returned the first punt he grabbed 18 yards on an improvisational zigzag past befuddled Broncos.
And it’s not just that he gets being a wide receiver. That’s where the rookie third-round draft choice and Kansas State’s career receiving leader has wowed coaches, quarterback Russell Wilson and veteran receiver Doug Baldwin with smooth, precise route running and an ability to get away from cover men.
No, Lockett gets life.
Wednesday — two days before Seattle’s second exhibition game, at Kansas City — was the Seahawks’ final public practice of 2015 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. One of the youngest (22) and smallest (5 foot 10, 182 pounds) Seahawks was the last one out along the field. Lockett signed autographs and posed for pictures with a couple thousand fans already fawning over Seattle’s new No. 16.
The dynamo the Seahawks traded up to get in the third round of May’s draft not only looks the part of an NFL standout after just one exhibition game.
He acts as polished as he plays.
“He’s doing what we raised him to do,” his father Kevin Lockett said Thursday from Leawood, Kansas, the Kansas City suburb where he works in as a venture capitalist.
When Tyler was 5 through 12 years old his father was an NFL wide receiver. He played for Kansas City (1997-2000), Washington (2001-02), Jacksonville (’02) and the New York Jets (’03).
Tyler’s uncle Aaron also spent time in the NFL with Tampa Bay and San Francisco and played in the Canadian Football League.
“He really grew up learning football from inside an NFL locker room,” Kevin Lockett said of Tyler.
His son turned what he learned there into what he’s become here with the Seahawks.
Father and son — and uncle — all learned the finer points of football and of how to be a man while playing for legendary coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State.
It was for Snyder that Kevin Lockett became K-State’s career receiving leader through the 1996 season. It was for Snyder that Tyler broke all his dad’s records.
“He is more talented than I was or my brother was,” Kevin Lockett said.
“The biggest thing about Coach Snyder was that he takes young boys and turns them into mature young men. So much of what he teaches is related to life off the field: having integrity, living with character. That’s why you succeed. So we did everything to raise him with a lot of Coach Snyder qualities embedded in him.
“He got to put into practice what he learned growing up.”
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has built his championship team by hoarding, not trading away, draft choices. So when he sent not one or two but four picks to Washington in May to move from the bottom of the third round to its top — and not to select a hulking, tall receiver or stud offensive linemen most thought Seattle urgently needed but for a visually unimposingreceiver — critics thought Schneider finally messed up a draft.
No one thinks that now.
Lockett has spent the majority of this month as the third receiver with the starting offense. He’s often moved Baldwin to the outside from his inside, slot position in which he’s excelled for years.
It’s become obvious Lockett is going to be more than just Seattle’s new kickoff and punt returner this season.
“This is what we hoped he would be like,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We just needed to see it, but that’s really the evaluation — he was a complete player. Very quickly he’s shown us that he’s very comfortable with what we’re asking him to do. He’s a gifted route runner — he’s just so darn quick at getting in and out.
“There’s really no ceiling on him.”
That’s exactly what his iconic coach at K-State instilled in Lockett.
“The biggest thing with what I learned from Bill Snyder was just the little things,” Lockett said. “You can’t really control the big things, but it’s the little things you can control. He always talked about being 1-0, which is winning every day — whether it’s in the meeting room, in practice — he just talked about trying to win every, single thing that you do every day.”
Sounds like Carroll.
“That way you don’t get caught up in all the glitz and glamour, when every day you are trying to win at something,” Lockett said.
Snyder’s teachings for life off the field are showing up for Lockett in Seattle.
“How to behave yourself. What’s your character? How to just carry yourself along the way, especially when good and bad things happen. He taught us a lot of things as far as the old-school way,” Lockett said.
“I was around the program when I was a little kid, but I was raised in a great family home. I was blessed to have the family members that I have, to raise me up right, understand right from wrong.
“I mean, I was one of the lucky ones to be in the position that I’m in, and to be able to carry myself the way I do.”
Lockett said the way he was raised — growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he wasn’t following his father around the NFL — was the way Snyder developed his players at Kansas State.
“One of the things that it did help me do was prepare to be a man,” he said. “Just to be able to prepare myself for the good and the bad. A lot of times things aren’t going to go your way.
“A lot of that made me prepared for this moment.”
Lockett’s father calls Seattle a perfect fit for his son.
“It’s absolutely a great fit,” Kevin Lockett said. “The No. 1 thing we prayed for as a family before the draft was that he land at the right place.
“In the NFL, everyone there is talented. Everybody has ability. The things that allow guys to stick is hard work, and opportunity. You have to be in the right place for the right opportunity.”
Opportunity abounds for his son with the Seahawks.
The Seahawks were 30th in the NFL last season in kickoff returns, averaging 21 yards. With opposing kickers routinely sending kickoffs into the end zone, Seattle was often starting drives at or inside its own 20.
The Seahawks were 25th in punt-return average (7.0) and usually were so unsettled they simply surrendered the chance to run. They had the second-most fair catches in the league (28).
Those special-teams plays are what coaches call “lost yards” within a game. In 2014, Seattle plain lost in that phase. That forced an offense that threw the ball fewer times than any other in the league to have longer fields to drive.
That’s the main reason Schneider schemed to get Lockett. Seattle’s scouting staff believed he was the best college returner in years. It took only five hours after he drafted Lockett for Carroll to publicly declare him the Seahawks’ kickoff and punt returner.
Yet that’s not the only reason Lockett’s dad sees Seattle as the perfect fit.
To the Locketts, Carroll is a unique, NFL version of Snyder.
“Coach Snyder and Pete Carroll seem on the outside to be so different; one is reserved and Pete is so outgoing and energetic with his players. Like polar opposites,” Kevin Lockett said. “But they both relate so well to their players. They take so much time and interest in developing them as people.
“They (in Seattle) have the atmosphere that really closely mirrors what Tyler had the last four years at Kansas State. Coach Carroll has deep relationships with his players and is interested in their character. That’s how Coach Snyder is.
“Being in Coach Carroll’s system is so familiar for Tyler.”
So is Friday’s game site. Lockett played a few games at Arrowhead Stadium while at K-State. Kevin Lockett, Tyler’s stepmother Cheryl, his three brothers (all younger, down to age 6), plus his grandmother and grandfather will all be there for Tyler’s second NFL exhibition game. So will seven other friends and family members.
On top of that, Tyler Lockett’s getting texts and calls from many from K-Staters who are planning to be there, too. They’ve been blowing up his phone since his breakout debut last week.
“Oh, I heard from a lot of people. People were texting me, saying they were proud of me and that they were watching the game,” Tyler Lockett said. “Everybody was like, ‘Man, that was a great debut!’ They said I deserved it.
“Everybody wants to have one of those games, but you just never know. Luckily I was blessed enough to have the game I played.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Exhibition: Seattle at Kansas City, 5 p.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
7 p.m. Friday, CenturyLink Field
TV: Channel 13 Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM
The series: The Seahawks are 5-0 in the preseason in a summer series that began in 2002, after Seattle left Kansas City’s AFC West Division. The last exhibition-game meeting was also at Arrowhead Stadium, in August 2012. Russell Wilson completed 13 of 19 passes with two touchdowns in his first start as a rookie third-round draft choice. He’s been Seattle’s starter ever since.
Block somebody: It’s not often an NFL teams swaps out 60 percent of its offensive line halfway through the preseason. That’s how bad Seattle was while allowing seven sacks by Denver in the exhibition opener. This will be the first time Justin Britt has started at left guard, Drew Nowak has started at center and Garry Gilliam has started at right tackle. Unless this is worse than last week, that will likely be the lineup in the opener in three weeks.
Matters of safety: This will be the 22nd day of Kam Chancellor’s holdout, and Seattle has been rotating first-team strong safeties in his absence. With free safety Earl Thomas also not playing while rehabilitating from February shoulder surgery, Friday’s starting safeties will be untested Dion Bailey and undrafted rookie Ronald Martin. No one truly believes Bailey and Martin will be the starters once the games get real, but – especially with Chancellor’s heels so dug in – who knows?
Health matters: Here’s the weekly notice that avoiding injuries is job one in these exhibitions. Seattle lost No. 2 quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to a high-ankle sprain in last week’s game. Top rookie Frank Clark played brilliantly despite an ankle that is still sore and will likely keep him out at Kansas City. The Seahawks need that hurting trend to stop there.
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