Leader from the Sidelines

Kentrell Lockett was his normal, jovial self Tuesday. He was smiling and vocal, joking with teammates and coaches as Ole Miss prepared for a weekend meeting with Kentucky at 11:20 a.m.

He was the same team captain he had always been. Except, of course, for the crutches he was leaning on for support.

The senior defensive end suffered a season-ending ACL injury during a rather routine play in the first quarter of Ole Miss' 55-38 win over Fresno State Saturday . Defending a screen pass, Lockett appeared to land awkwardly after jumping in the air, falling to the ground in pain in front of some 55,000 fans in attendance.

"I was sad at first, just down because it was a season-ending injury," he said. "But now I'm fine. Everything happens for a reason, you've just to take it, rehab and get back to playing as soon as possible."

Kentrell Lockett

Lockett said he knew the injury was serious right when it occurred.

Compared to previous knee injuries in his football career, it was a feeling he had never felt before. He had to be helped up and off the field by the team's trainers. As he lay on the observation table, his hands remained on his face.

He was attempting to hide the pain.

"It was a different feeling, a different sound and everything," Lockett said.

Lockett will undergo surgery a week from today at the University Medical Center in Jackson, overseen by Dr. William Geissler. A redshirt senior, he fits the criteria of a medical hardship waiver should he choose to apply following the season.

"Haven't really talked about it, haven't really scratched the surface on it," Lockett said of the possibility. "The important thing right now is going in, getting fixed, getting everything right back together, rehabbing and everything.

"If that's a possibility, we're just going to take that into consideration and just go with it."

Everywhere he goes these days, be it to class or the student union, he's received encouragement. He may be hurt, but he isn't forgotten. Lockett has and will continue to be the heart and soul of this team, a player highly-respected by all involved in Ole Miss football.

"Pretty much everybody (wants me to come back)," he said. "Then there's some people that really don't know the extent of the injury and will be like, ‘I hope you're back next week.' I'm like, ‘Yeah, I hope that's the case, too.' I get it from pretty much everybody.

"If the opportunity arises, it's something to think about. It's something you've really got to sit down and ponder and just think on."

He won't have pads on, but Lockett still intends on being a leader. He was already a vocal presence, but now it's the only luxury he'll be afforded.

"I'm still going to be that leader, but it's going to be more through spoken words," Lockett said. "At the same time, I still think my name and the voice and everything I say still carries a lot of weight, no matter that I'm not playing at all.

"I feel like now, I'm going to be more of a coach to the younger guys who fill in that position that I used to play. I've gotta be kind of like that father-figure and like another coach for (defensive line) Coach (Terry) Price to help him out for the things that he doesn't see."

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