I texted Kai Locksley at 12:44 pm CT Tuesday asking him for a phone interview.
He texted right back that he was in class (at Gilman Prep in Baltimore, Md.) and had a basketball game later and that he’d call me after the game. (They won)
At 9:53 pm CT, Locksley texted me to apologize for it being so late – that he’d “been on the phone all night recruiting some guys!”
I responded if it was too late or he was too slammed recruiting, we could talk another time. He responded, “Good to go if you’re good.”
For the next 27 minutes, I learned what makes Locksley tick and just how driven he is – not only to be the quarterback at Texas as a freshman - but to be a national championship quarterback before he leaves Austin.
And not as a running quarterback. As a quarterback with great mechanics in the pocket who can go through pro-style progressions and “get things done through the air until I’m forced to run.”
Nothing wrong with those legs by the way. In addition to being the leading scorer on Gilman’s basketball team, Locksley ran a 22.5 in the 200 last season and also competes in the long jump and triple jump.
Part of the reason for that is Locksley was invited to the Under Armour All-American Game as a receiver, even though he said all the 35 schools who offered him scholarships, including Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Florida State, among others – did so as a quarterback.
“I definitely love and take satisfaction in proving people wrong,” Locksley said. “It’s been something I’ve had to deal with for a long time, because my dad’s a coach.
“People will say, ‘Oh, he got to where he is because of his father.’ But then people will come see me on the field and a lot of those pre-judgments change.
“Every time I step on the field, that stuff is in the back of my mind, and it makes the fuel in my tank burn a little hotter.”
SO JUST HOW MUCH WILL TEXAS TWEAK THE OFFENSE GOING FORWARD?
“On my official visit, that’s one of the things I wanted to get clarified,” Locksley said. “What exactly is their scheme? And what exactly did they want to do?
“(QB coach Shawn Watson) explained to me that it would be the same stuff they were running. But now it would be up-tempo and get things going a lot faster and quicker. So, it’s less of the quarterback having to decipher what’s going on with the defense at the line, and just kind of playing fast.
“Those are the only changes that were explained to me.”
35 SCHOLARSHIP OFFERS AS A QB
As a sophomore at Gilman, Locksley played receiver while waiting his turn at QB behind Shane Cockerille, who signed with Maryland in 2013. So he only started at quarterback his final two years in high school.
“I’ve been playing quarterback since little league,” Locksley said. “I didn’t want to sit (my sophomore year). I wanted to get on the field, so I played receiver. It wasn’t what I wanted to play. But I wanted to compete.
“At the end of my junior year, the tape turned out well, and the offers started pouring in. Once that happened, I realized I could do this at the next level, and I was very confident.”
Watch Locksley’s film and you see a 6-4, 190-pound quarterback who moves well in the pocket. He keeps his eyes downfield when breaks the pocket, still looking to make the play through the air. If there’s a knock on Locksley as a passer, it’s that he doesn’t stride into his throws and use his legs enough.
Locksley has such a big arm, sometimes he’ll just throw with a shoulder turn and not tie his feet to his eyes.
But even though Locksley played in a predominantly run-oriented offense at Gilman, where he had 31 touchdowns rushing and only 11 passing in his only two seasons as the starter, Locksley proved he could win games with his arm.
In victories over St. Frances Academy and Friendship Collegiate Academy last fall, Locksley completed a high percentage of passes to help break open close games at halftime to pull away for the victories.
Even though the Under Armour All-Star Game had filled its quota of invitations for quarterbacks who had been more established at the position than Locksley (meaning most of them played QB as sophomores), UA officials invited Locksley as a receiver, because they still saw him as a special talent.
It was there Locksley befriended WR John Burt of Tallahassee Lincoln, who explained to him he had de-committed from Texas, in part, because he had concerns about the Longhorns' QB position.
They started talking about possibly going to Texas together, and stayed in touch. So when Locksley reported back to Burt after his official visit to Texas (Jan. 23) that he had a great trip and was probably going to de-commit from Florida State and head to Austin, Burt re-committed to the Longhorns - with a message to his friend up in Maryland.
In a response to a tweet from Locksley to Burt congratulating him on his re-commitment to Texas on July 26, Burt responded: @LOCKSnLOADED_3 now we need you brotha
“No coach who has ever recruited me or anyone important to me has ever brought up me being a receiver,” Locksley said. “It was always quarterback brought up by all the 35 schools who offered me."
VINCE YOUNG POSTERS ON HIS WALL GROWING UP
Locksley grew up a fan of Vince Young, who had to sharpen some raw passing skills during his time at Texas.
“Vince Young was a big role model for me growing up,” Locksley said. “I had his posters everywhere, starting from when he won the title at Texas to his first few years with the Titans, winning rookie of the year.
“I definitely admired a guy like him who was a guy who showed, big, athletic quarterbacks are guys who can help change a program and evolve the quarterback position into more of a well-round position instead just one look.”
Young was someone teammates were drawn to. Incoming freshman LB Breckyn Hager said Kai Locksley had that same kind of presence during their official visit to Texas.
“Kai has a great personality, but he’s humble,” Hager said. “You can see he’s confident in everything he says and does. And that’s a trait teammates will follow.”
Locksley said leading has always come naturally to him.
“My mother explained that to me when I was little – that people wanted to follow me, and it’s something I’ve been blessed with. It’s something I want to further develop at the next level,” Locksley said.
“My junior year we had a drop-off because a lot of our best players graduated. So I took a hold of the program and told guys to get on my back, and I tried to stay positive and tried to make my teammates better.”
CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF Charlie Strong
In 2003 and 2004, Kai’s father, Mike Locksley, the offensive coordinator at Maryland, was the running backs coach at Florida under Ron Zook. Mike's best friend on the staff was defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.
And even though Kai was just a kid, Strong made an impression on him back then.
“I remember he (Strong) used to come around the house," Kai said. "He and my dad used to have these energetic conversations. They'd always be joking around with each other. And then when I’d go to the field to watch practices, Coach Strong was a high-energy guy.
“I remember him being a player’s coach and a guy all the players on the team loved and loved to be around and to have as a mentor.”
After Locksley’s junior season at Gilman, he, Strong and Texas offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, who also coached with Mike Locksley and Strong at Florida under Zook, were reunited.
“Charlie watched my junior film and liked what I did and thought - with some molding and some coaching – that I could help Texas,” Locksley said.
“And then as things progressed my senior year, he just went full tilt and said this was a position that they need, and it’s a priority and that they believed I could solve this problem for them.”
NUMBERS GAME FAVORED TEXAS
Locksley committed to Florida State back in July, quite honestly, because Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles’ coaching staff was showing him the most love.
“They kept telling me they wanted me to be the face of the program,” Locksley said. “They recruited me the hardest.”
But Strong and Shawn Watson stayed in Locksley’s ear and put on a full-court press over the past month, including his official visit to Texas.
“The opportunity at Texas helped me make my decision,” Locksley said. “At FSU, there were five other guys I would have been competing with, and at Texas there was only two. Numbers-wise, it couldn’t be a better situation than it is at Texas.”
FATHER KNOWS BEST
Even though Kai has been trying to prove himself at every level of football so others didn’t think he was ever getting special treatment because of his father, he is leaning on his father right now for some special treatment.
As in his father’s expertise as an offensive coordinator.
“Right now, it’s not about the physical stuff for me - until June (when he enrolls at Texas) - it’s about the mental stuff,” Locksley said.
“From progressions, to coverages, to protections, to reads, to hots, to blitzes – basically all the chalk talk of the game.
“That’s what I’m going to be leaning on my father for, because a lot of the stuff he does now is stuff he did with Coach Wickline when they coached together (at Florida). Really, I’m just gonna be trying to prepare myself for all the things on the chalk board between now and then.
“I’d always had aspirations of playing as a freshman, wherever I went. So I knew I was going to have to really learn the position and make it a living – on and off the field, 24/7.
“By the time I get to Austin, I want to dominate the game on the chalk board.”
Locksley said he connected right away with Texas QB coach Shawn Watson.
“He’s a very calm, cool, collected guy. He’s straight forward, and he wants to see people succeed,” Locksley said.
“He told me the first thing he looks for in a quarterback is someone whose aspirations are to make it to the league.
“That got him excited about me, because I let him know that’s been my goal and dream since day one. He said the last guy who explained that to him was Teddy Bridgewater. He’s going to give you his all to develop you and make you better.”
STRONG’S ‘FOUNDATION’ RECRUITING CLASS
The group text of 15 to 20 Texas commits and recruits reaching out to each other about joining the Longhorns’ class leading up to Wednesday paid dividends. They helped flip safety James “P.J.” Locke from Oregon to Texas and Ryan Newsome from UCLA to UT.
Locksley said he already has a special feeling about this recruiting class.
“Everyone is real focused and on the same page already,” he said. “And I’m not sure you see that everywhere, especially with so many guys who’ve had smoke blown up their butts in the recruiting process.
“I just doubt you’d see that too often, and that gets me excited about the future and where we want to take Texas football.”
I asked Locksley how he keeps things perspective and how he’d handle the limelight of being the QB at Texas if he wins the job?
“My parents have raised me to always remain humble,” Locksley said. “God blessed me with a wonderful opportunity and wonderful abilities.
“And it’s my job to make use of the opportunity and to do things full-force. If you do anything timid, that’s when you make mistakes.
“Texas has a guy coming who wants to get better, who wants to make his teammates and those around him better. And hopefully I’ll be able to earn the job of starting quarterback this fall.”
Locksley said he and members of the 2015 class are already thinking big.
“I want it to be something historical - this being Coach Strong’s first full class,” Locksley said. “We want to be the ones who bring the juice back to Texas.
“They’ve been a traditional powerhouse. And for them to drop off, I want to be a part of bringing it back. This class already knows it wants to be a part of a national championship.”
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