From their Tulsa home, John and Beatrice Lockett have made the 542-mile roundtrip trek to Manhattan, Kan., countless times the last 20-plus years.
“I couldn’t venture to guess,” said John Lockett, laughing.
Nonetheless, venture he did: about 20 times 14 — the number of seasons, including redshirt years, his children and grandchild have suited up for the Kansas State football team.
With more certainty, he can tell you “to a second” how long the drive will take. Allowing for the typical stop at the Pump’N Pete’s in Burlington, Kan., the one-way excursion will be “four-and-a-half hours, from doorstep to motel.”
The routine has become such a way of life for the Locketts that you’d think they might be anticipating some withdrawal pangs.
Grandson Tyler plays his final collegiate game against UCLA on Friday in the Alamo Bowl, a game in which he could further burnish a legacy that includes eclipsing his father and uncle’s K-State standards.
“A guy like Lockett,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said, “you’re not going to stop him.”
As it happens, there may be no stopping other guys like Tyler Lockett — very much like Lockett — from being in lockstep with K-State’s future.
And the Lockett family needn’t necessarily brace itself for the end of an era … because this may just be another mere gap in the Lockett Dynasty.
For a glimpse at why, on a table in an office room of John and Beatrice’s house sits a mock-up portrait. The framed photo depicts 11-year-old Sterling Lockett, Tyler’s brother, on a make-believe Sports Illustrated cover that proclaims him the nation’s best point guard in the class of 2022.
Subtly written in the lower right corner: “Will he choose KSU or KU?”
If he emerges as a football player more than a basketball star, it would seem a foregone conclusion that K-State will be the school of choice for Sterling.
That’s why Tyler Lockett playfully (we think) set out to max out his stats — 293 career receptions, including 93 this season, and 33 career touchdowns, including six on returns.
So they can remain both school and family records.
“I liked his statement (that) ‘I’m going to have to really lay it on to make it hard for Sterling,’” said the grandfather, a retired petroleum engineer.
Not to mention 6-year-old twins Jacob and Jordan, who at this age evidently take sports more seriously than their predecessors.
“They were in basketball practice one day, and the kids were acting up,” John Lockett said. “Kevin was coaching, and Jordan and Jacob said to the kids, ‘Guys, be quiet. Coach is talking!’”
Meanwhile, Kevin Lockett insists he and his wife, Cheryl, are trying not to pressure Sterling or the twins.
“We don’t want an 11-year-old kid feeling like he’s failed if he doesn’t achieve the opportunity to play at the university,” said Lockett, now the chief financial officer for the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
Just the same, who is he to squelch that?
“They’ve got a really good chance to do some incredible things; they love watching and following their big brother,” he said. “And you can already see sort of the spark in Sterling’s eye in regard to trying to catch or chase some of the things that Tyler has done.”
In one sense, this all started in Tulsa. But it really began in North Carolina, where John and Beatrice were raised and met.
John Lockett grew up in Shelby, N.C., “a nest for athletes,” he called it, such as former Chiefs star Bobby Bell, boxer Floyd Patterson and basketball immortal David Thompson.
He was the youngest of seven and the first in his family to finish college. Largely, he’ll tell you, because of the diligence of his mother, who also was named Beatrice.
Working three jobs at a time, she raised them alone after his father died from a heart attack when Lockett was 8 years old.
She lived to be 101.
“I hope I have a few of those genes in me,” he said.
Beatrice, his wife, grew up in Raleigh, N.C., in a family where going to college was “what you do.”
They met as math majors at St. Augustine’s University, where John also played basketball.
But they never got around to dating until after his service in Vietnam in 1971.
On his drive back from California to North Carolina, he stopped in Tulsa to see Beatrice, who was working for Shell Oil.
“Ended up staying!” he says, much to the amusement of each of them in their living room just before Christmas.
Kevin was born in 1974, younger brother Aaron in 1978, and each was steeped all along in a notion of what many today consider a mythological being: the student-athlete.
Here’s one way the notion can be harmonious:
When Kevin was in fifth grade, he found himself unappreciative of a music appreciation class.
“Music made no sense to me, I didn’t really care for music, and I didn’t really see how music could be a big part of my future,” he said.
When his parents saw the D on his report card, there was no yelling or screaming. Instead, they calmly made him suit up for his next basketball game … and sit on the bench.
“And answer the questions of all of my friends and all of their parents of why I was not playing in the game against all of my friends,” he said. “That was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.”
It also was the last and only time the parents remember having to take any serious action with either of their sons to reinforce the point.
As he did in athletics, too, Kevin created the example that Aaron embraced instead of flinching from. And each always was conscious of what Aaron called “the day after” … when sports would end.
All of which also explains why each was able to enter their post-athletic lives with rewarding careers (Aaron works in supply and trading for Phillips 66 in Houston).
The parents also tried to inspire the boys by exalting their achievements, academic and athletic.
It started with a diamond-shaped trophy case in the corner of the living room, a vision that Kevin Lockett still sees in his mind’s eye, brimming with awards and honors his parents had won.
As the boys reeled in more and more of their own, they required a mantle to display them … and then a wall … and, finally, an entire room added on to the living room where they used to play one-on-one tackle football when the parents were out.
“You don’t know as a child how that helps you later on,” said Aaron, laughing as he reminisced about having to avoid the fireplace and other obstacles. “When you play in tight space at an early age, you learn how to maneuver.”
The walls now include such memorabilia as the Chiefs jersey worn by Kevin and a 49ers jersey of Aaron’s.
And now it includes a virtual timeline of Tyler’s emergence — and his perpetuation of the family name in K-State lore.
“Tyler really embodies what Kevin and I would be as one individual,” said Aaron, who doubts his 3-year-old daughter, Hayley, will take up football but sees another budding athlete on the way.
Said Kevin: “Tyler seems to be the combination of quite a few things. I think he has the ability to really learn and understand the game, which is really what I thrived on — really understanding the intricacies of the game.
“And he has a lot of the athletic prowess of my younger brother. He’s fast and moves like him.
“He has the best of what both of us had.”
That includes an aptitude for academics that made him a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, the so-called “Academic Heisman.”
But even if they seem like “triplets,” as John Lockett put it, each has his own distinct stamp.
On and off the field: Aaron, after all, is a rapper who has produced his own CD. Tyler writes poetry.
As inevitable as this all looks now, none of it was automatic, as off some assembly line.
Each has made his own way, through different circumstances.
Kevin, for instance, quit football before his sophomore year at Booker T. Washington High so he could concentrate on basketball and had to be talked back into playing by coaches and teammates.
He also had intended to go to SMU for the accounting and finance program … but wasn’t initially offered a scholarship and thus found his way to K-State.
“I think everything worked out the way it was supposed to,” he said.
If Kevin blazed a trail, Aaron and Tyler had the temperaments not to be consumed by the shadows before them.
And to bring their unique selves to their game.
Tyler, for instance, exudes a certain something that John Lockett attributes to Tyler’s mother, former sprinter Nicole Edwards:
“She didn’t think there was anything she couldn’t do,” said John Lockett, who at one time coached her in track.
In fact, for all of Tyler’s gifts, K-State coach Bill Snyder — a revered figure in the family after coaching all three — seems most struck by that.
“He is a self-made man in regards to being an athlete and a football player …” Snyder said earlier this season. “You have heard me say so many times that he is the last guy off the field.
“He is out catching punts, and he keeps the quarterbacks out there until they feel like they are not going to miss him.”
Like Snyder, K-State fans will miss him after Friday.
His grandparents will miss the drive.
But maybe another one a lot like him will be on his way before long … and the debate over the best Lockett ever to play at K-State will be reopened.
“It’s all in good fun,” Kevin Lockett said. “We just want each generation to get better.”