MANHATTAN — Life, and football, have come full circle for Kevin Lockett.
Eighteen years ago, he was a freshman receiver at Kansas State, catching the first of 217 passes he turned into a school-record 3,032 receiving yards. He was focused on football, but he also had family to think about. After every practice and game, he called his young son, Tyler.
"I made a point to always call him even though he couldn't talk, and he couldn't understand what I was saying to him," Lockett said. "We're talking a minimum of five or six times a week."
Imagine Lockett's pride these days, as Tyler Lockett has grown up and caught 18 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns, on top of returning two kickoffs for touchdowns, for K-State this freshman season. He's coming off a 315 all-purpose yards game against Oklahoma State and could be a freshman All-America candidate.
Kevin Lockett, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., and works as a deputy director for Urban Entrepreneur Partnership Inc., can already envision Tyler breaking his receiving record, which has stood since 1996.
"Watching him play, I realize it's a possibility," Kevin Lockett said. "I don't have an ego, I hope he does. If somebody is going to break my record, I'd prefer it be my son. I'd love to see him break every record I set. How great would that be?"
Pretty great, though his "ultimate" dream for Tyler is to win the Campbell Trophy, given to a player with the best mixture of academics, community service and on-field performance.
It's been fun for Kevin Lockett to kick back and think about such things. But that's not what he's enjoyed most about the past few months.
To him, nothing can beat the daily conversations he has with his son. Tyler calls after every game and most practices the same way Kevin did when he was in college.
"We talk all the time," Kevin Lockett said. "Our relationship turned to football when he was a sophomore in high school, but it is a relationship that extends way beyond football. It's about life, it's about success, it's about his future. It's about a lot of different things."
They talk about life and school, but when the conversation turns to football, Kevin Lockett tries to offer his son some advice and leave him with a challenge for the upcoming week. He thinks Tyler is utilizing his speed and athleticism at a high level, but needs to work on his technique and game knowledge. His routes could be more concise.
This week, Kevin Lockett has encouraged Tyler to fight through the wear and tear that all players experience late in the season with a positive mindset. Coming off back-to-back losses, the Wildcats could use some extra energy in practices.
"Physically, he's pretty much like everyone on the team — beat up a little bit," Kevin Lockett said. "But he'll be just fine. That's where you've got to be mentally tough. I visited with him last night, and he is very excited about where he's at and is looking forward to helping his team win its final three games."
Tyler says he turns to his father for advice, and sometimes reaches out to his uncle, Aaron, who caught 137 passes for 2,400 yards and was K-State's second-leading punt returner.
"Every time I call them, I try to take something away from the conversation," Tyler said, "I look at it as a learning experience."
Both were at Saturday's game against Oklahoma State, but surprisingly had little to say when it was over.
"Watching that game was a pretty neat feeling for our family, and it was very special for my brother," Kevin Lockett said. "His game was always about all-purpose yardage. For him to be able to witness Tyler get 300-plus yards first hand, which is something he was never able to do, was pretty great. That really excited him."
"I told Tyler, 'You're doing something that some kids never get to do as a senior, and you're a true freshman.' When I compare him to my brother and myself, we didn't do kickoffs and punt returns until our junior years. For them to put him in there as a freshman I think speaks volumes about him."
They both think Tyler is a more complete player than they were at his age. Kevin Lockett hopes he keeps thinking that throughout his son's career.
He'll be on the other end of the phone to help.