Lockett Debuts

NEW ORLEANS – After battling an irregular heartbeat for the better part of two weeks, senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett made his 2010 debut Saturday, a 27-13 win at Tulane.

Kentrell Lockett, arms flailing, took to the field of the Louisiana Superdome with obvious excitement.

He couldn't contain himself. Saturday marked his first appearance in his final season, a swan song for one of the more celebrated players to ever don an Ole Miss uniform. Over the last few weeks, Lockett had seen multiple specialists, all in an attempt to diagnosis the cause of an irregular rhythm to his heart.

"It was exciting," Lockett said. "I still haven't come down from this little high I have of just playing today. But still, it was the first game for me that my teammates had a little something up on me, because they got them first-game jitters out (against Jacksonville State). But I've got mine out now, so I'm fine."

He looked to the some 20,000 Ole Miss fans in attendance for support. He wanted to hear them, visibly waiving and bouncing with a fresh pep in his step. New Orleans is virtually his home. Lockett hails from nearby Hahnville, a smallish town with a population close to 3,000.

Kentrell Lockett

"That was that adrenaline that I had built up from last weekend that I couldn't release," he said. "It was heightened so much that I was back in my hometown and half of my family was here to watch. That all added to everything."

Lockett provides the voice, the soul, the emotion of the 2010 Ole Miss football team. He's an unquestioned leader, one willing to speak up when times turn tough.

He was open and honest after witnessing an upset of epic proportions at the hands of Jacksonville State a week earlier. Ole Miss' defense was slashed and gashed in its season opener. Lockett couldn't wrap his head around the fact, remaining inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in reflection, if not bewilderment.

Against Tulane, however, there was little to explain. Well, outside of another third-quarter lull from a team making a habit out of third-quarter lulls.

Ole Miss allowed Tulane to creep within striking distance, 24-13, after another lackluster opening to the second half. The defense, on the field for all of two possessions in the quarter, allowed two drives of 75 yards or more, including a touchdown with 1:51 remaining.

"It always seems like it's a dead moment when we come out at halftime," Lockett said. "But, you know, we weren't going to allow what happened last week. We kind of got down, but we got back up. We weren't going to let it happen again. We had to play ball like we know how to."

Ole Miss held its lead the rest of the way, despite the uninspiring third quarter. Eventually, as time ticked away, the Rebels had done the marching, playing the role of the usual home New Orleans Saints.

"It means the world. He's probably our No. 1 captain," defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said of Lockett. "He's a difference-maker. I don't know how many sacks he actually had, but just his presence, leadership and confidence makes a big difference."

Lockett took a series to get his feet wet, but soon found his comfort zone. He registered his first sack of the season, tackling Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin on third-and-6 from the Green Wave 34-yard line in the first quarter.

When he rose to his feet, he could hear the cheers. Those fans he'd encouraged a drive earlier were showing their appreciation, encouraging the return of a team captain. All Lockett could do was soak it all in.

"That was a rush," he said. "It had me so excited; I almost couldn't focus for the next series. It was just so much for me. I was like, ‘I finally got that first sack under my belt. Now it's time to get No. 2.'

"I felt like I had fallen back into that groove."

A groove sorely missing.

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