John Lockett came to Tulsa in 1971 following Beatrice, his wife of 48 years, after returning from Vietnam.
Here, he built a life and raised two sons, Kevin and Aaron, who would go on to light up the football field at Booker T. Washington, play at Kansas State and eventually spend time in the NFL. John instilled in his sons the importance of giving back, and for all the brothers accomplished on the field, that sense of duty never faded. Since their professional careers began, Aaron and Kevin have used their platforms to make an impact in the Tulsa community, beginning with their youth camp at Booker T. Washington in 1999.
John Lockett remembers that day as one of the happiest of his life.
On Friday morning, from a seat in the north corner of the University of Tulsa’s H.A. Chapman Stadium, John Lockett was filled with that same happiness once again. This time he was watching another member of the family tree, grandson Tyler, a Pro Bowl wide receiver and punt returner for the Seattle Seahawks, hold his first youth camp in Tulsa, trying to make the same impact on his hometown his father and uncle made before him.
“To see your grandson do the same thing, this is just a gratifying experience for me,” John Lockett said. “It gives me a lot of pride.”
More than 250 local kids showed up for the Tyler Lockett Football ProCamp on Friday. Staffed by members of the Golden Hurricane football team and local youth and high school coaches, the skills camp open to ages 7-18 put campers through football drills, instruction and games before a pizza lunch to close out the event. All of the kids went home with signed photos with Lockett and several items of Seahawks apparel.
Lockett, a standout at Booker T. Washington, has organized similar events in his adopted home of Seattle and at his alma mater in Manhattan, Kansas, but Friday’s camp in Tulsa held deeper meaning. Not only was it the four-year NFL veteran’s first opportunity to put on a camp in his hometown, it also served as a chance to return to the community that raised him and further a family legacy.
The two-time college All-American reminisced Friday morning about attending his father’s camp as a child and discussed the lasting impression it left on him and everyone else who participated. Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was there, and Lockett and his friends still talk about meeting him and about how that day left an impact on them that remains today.
It’s the kind of impact Lockett now hopes to pay forward with his own camp in Tulsa. He said he’s already got bigger plans for Year 2.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to be able to get the experiences they need just to be able to get over the hump of what they’re going through in life,” he said. “It’s days like this that kids remember and it’s days like this that make kids want to do more, to be better. I want them to know that you can do anything you want.”
As drills went on with music blaring from speakers surrounding the field, parents watched as their kids experienced the opportunity to compete on TU’s turf field. Many of them had signed their kids up for the camp so they could develop their talents and learn from Lockett and the coaching staff he’d assembled.
Others saw the event differently. More than a day to pick up a skill or a new route running technique, the camp delivered a positive summer outlet for Tulsa youth and a chance to put their kids in front of a role model and a Tulsa native who’d reached his dreams and was an inspiration.
To be that pillar in the community who can return to give back is what the Locketts have dreamed to accomplish through their community work in Tulsa for three generations, from John to his two sons and now to Tyler. That goal shined through Friday as the Locketts put on their largest event in Tulsa yet.
“We’ve always tried to impact the communities that were important to us,” said Kevin Lockett, Tyler’s father. “Tyler just wants to have a big impact in Tulsa because he knows there were a lot of people who did the same for him when he was growing up here.”
Taking in the scene once again later in the morning, this time under the cover of a tent, John Lockett continued to ooze with pride.
Music played, children laughed and his grandson stood 20 feet in front of him giving instruction on a catching drill. To most everyone else standing around looking on, the moment was nothing special.
John knew exactly what it represented.
“Look at all these kids having a good time out there,” he said. “This is simple, but this is what it’s all about.”