Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lockett ready for his first bowl game

Tyler Lockett still remembers watching his uncle Aaron return punts in the 2001 Cotton Bowl.

Tyler’s father, Kevin, played for Kansas State in the 1997 Cotton Bowl, and scored a touchdown.

Both his uncle and his father played in four bowls in their K-State careers, and while Lockett missed last season’s Cotton Bowl with an injury, he’s about to do something neither of them did.

Play in a BCS bowl.

The Wildcats are set to face Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, the sophomore wide receiver’s bowl game debut.

While he heard all about Kevin and Aaron’s bowl experiences, his own bowl will be adding another milestone to a list of things that Tyler his done and his short career, and neither of them were able to accomplish.

“We’ve all did things that none of us have ever done,” he said. “They were never able to win a state championship like I was able to win four, and I was able to win a Big 12. But my dad holds the record, my uncle was so good at returns, so we all excel in different aspects.”

Kevin played in K-State’s first bowl under coach Bill Snyder — the 1993 Copper Bowl — and then the Aloha Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Cotton Bowl in his career from 1993-96. Aaron played in the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Cotton Bowl and Insight Bowl from 1998-01

Tyler, who expects to be close to 100 percent healthy when the Wildcats play the Ducks next week, has developed into a good mix of the qualities his father and uncle brought to the Wildcats.

Kevin caught 222 passes for 3,131 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career, while Aaron had 14 receiving touchdowns and four return scores.

In his own young career, Tyler has scored seven receiving touchdowns and four kick return scores.

“I’ve always said I was in the middle of them,” he said. “Between my dad’s speed and my uncle’s speed, my dad’s hands and my uncle’s hands — the returning would probably be from my uncle.

“My dad always says he was better than me, my uncle probably says the same thing, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.”

Lockett has already surpassed his uncle this season when it comes to returning kicks, currently ranked second in the nation with a return average of 33.3 yards, part of the Wildcats nation-leading 29.23 yards per return.

They’re numbers that Tyler is extremely proud of, both from a team and individual standpoint. But he isn’t completely content with it, noting that it could always be better.

“I wanted to do a bit better than I did last year and at the end of the day, I wanted to be number one in average return yards, ” he said. “You still have one more game to make that happen, so that’s another goal we’re striving for.”

Tyler said it’s remarkable when you consider just how productive the Wildcats have been with both kick and punt returns, where the Wildcats also ranked No. 1 at 22 yards per return.

Ultimately, he said the goal is to always put the Wildcats in a position to start past the opponent’s 30-yard line, and even the 40-yard line.

On the receiving side, Lockett said he often turns to his father for tips. He has caught 40 passes for 652 yards and four touchdowns this year, and he credits Kevin for his vast improvement.

“He’s helped me with not worrying about what the DB does because they have to respond to everything the receiver does,” he said. “The main thing he’s helped me with is making sure I get off the ball and keeping my routes.”

Lockett said the advice comes from his dad often, who watches each game and tells him how to improve going forward. He said listening to him and wide receiver coach Michael Smith has made him better.

The excitement about the Fiesta Bowl for Lockett has a lot to do with getting to face some of the speed he remembers watching growing up.

And speaking of speed, that’s something else he wants to work on going forward. Though he currently runs a speedy 4.3 40-yard dash, he said he wants to get to his uncle’s mark of 4.24 before it’s all said and done.

As for the school records that his dad and uncle still hold, he said he’ll address them along the way as he approaches them.


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