Feeling Like '40'

Kentrell Lockett watched and waited. His emotions ran high. For three days, one player after another was taken in the 2012 version of the NFL Draft. His name wasn't called.

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Going undrafted didn't come as a complete surprise, mind you.

Over his final two seasons as a defensive end for Ole Miss, his production fell off, chiefly due to a string of injuries. The most serious of those injuries was an ACL tear in 2010, in the first of two senior seasons.

"Man, this draft was so weird. Throughout the whole draft, there were some crazy, weird picks," he said. "Every year of the draft, it seemed like it was position specific. This year, it was a random selection of people. In previous drafts, you kind of knew who was going to get picked. This year, it was kind of odd."

On Sunday, however, he finally got the call he'd been waiting for. A three-day draft process was long enough, but Lockett had been waiting much, much longer -- six seasons, in fact. On the other end was the Washington Redskins, and they had a free agent offer ready.

"To be honest with you, I never really just talked to the Redskins," he said. "I never really talked with them, talked with a scout or anything. We had some teams that we thought were interested. Going through the draft, some of the scouts would call my agent. But it didn't play out that way."

The Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs all showed pre-draft interest in either drafting or signing Lockett to a free agent deal. But the Redskins provided the best fit. Lockett reached an agreement and started packing.

He'll arrive in Washington Thursday for rookie mini-camp, and he has plenty to prove.

"I'm so happy. I feel so blessed. It's been a long time; I thought this day was never going to come. But it's finally here," Lockett said. "I've pretty much experienced every emotion you can experience in this moment. I'm enjoying it. I'm embracing it. I'm ready to play now."

Kentrell Lockett
US Presswire

Lockett saw his stock soar in his junior season, the same season he notched the most recognizable moment of his Ole Miss career: a point-after block against then-No. 1 Florida in a 31-30 Ole Miss upset.

He was an All-SEC third team selection by Phil Steele, starting all 13 games at defensive end and finishing the season with a team-high 13 quarterback pressures. He was second in both tackles for loss and sacks.

He entered his senior season thought of as one of the better pass rushers in the conference, if not the nation. Then the injuries came. ACL. Shoulder. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, but it was obvious in his final season that he wasn't back to his old self.

"I got the phone call from the Redskins (Sunday). It was like, ‘We've been looking at you for a while. Would you like to come join the Redskins organization?' I was like, man, I just want to play football. I told them I wouldn't let them down," Lockett said.

Now, he can put all of those struggles in the past where they belong. He's been given his chance. He can say he's a professional football player, a lifelong dream. The Redskins plan to use Lockett as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end in their 3-4 defensive scheme.

He'll be coming off the edge, attempting to get to the quarterback as quickly as possible.

"I definitely think that's one of the easiest things; that comes so naturally," he said. "It's like breathing, just coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback as soon as I possibly can. But putting my hand in the dirt is easy, and I like to do it as well. I feel like I can make a lot of plays, a lot of things happen at that position."

Rushing the passer is what comes naturally to the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Lockett, who totaled 26 tackles for loss, 22 quarterback pressures and nine sacks in his Ole Miss career.

"I feel great. We could play a game right now. I would go up against anybody," Lockett said. "I feel like I can line up against Michael Oher and get a couple of pass rushes in and be victorious right now. I'm feeling like old 40 again."

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