And it obviously means a great deal for the Longhorns.
Head coach Mack Brown privately speculated that most significant defensive injury last season (when nearly every starter took turns in the M.A.S.H. unit) may have been Lokey's. That snowy day in Lincoln, when Lokey was carted across the field with a towel covering the disappointment on his face, the Horns lost not only one of their best pass rushers but also its FB in short-yardage and goal line situations. Until then, Lokey was on-pace for (statistically) his best outing of his career. He had tied his career-best four tackles, including a TFL, when he was sidelined for the season late in the second quarter. Through 30 career games (eight as a starter), Lokey has notched 51 tackles, nine TFL, two sacks and a fumble recovery. His late fourth-quarter TFL in the 2005 Rose Bowl was instrumental to Texas' comeback win against Michigan.
Once the swelling -- and disappointment -- began to ebb last autumn, the fourth-year defender embarked on one of the most determined rehabilitation efforts his coaches have seen.
"During Christmas break, everybody else was home and I was up here working with (training staff)," Lokey said. "They had put me through some drills that mimic what I've been doing on the field. It's really helped me. So, when I was able to get back out there, specially when we had the two days without pads and in shorts and helmets, that was great for me because I was able to get my feet back under me. When we got the pads back on, I was ready to go. I felt full-speed."
And when teammates took a much-needed Sping Break from drills, Lokey opted to devote his energies to more rehab.
"Coming back from an injury like that, you can't take a week off on a joint that's healing," Lokey explained. "I was able to work that all week. The grind of football actually helps it to heal and it's feeling good right now."
The misfortune at Nebraska was not the first time Lokey missed playing time due to injury. He missed the first two games of the 2005 National Championship season after suffering an ankle injury during voluntary summer workouts. Lokey came back that season to set career highs with four tackles apiece, as a backup, against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
"Derek's fine," DT coach Mike Tolleson told Inside Texas. "Derek's always going to work hard regardless of the situation, but he's doing a nice job."
Lokey is also one of the most intellectually gifted student-athletes to wear the Burnt Orange. A two-time Academic All-Big 12 performer, his intensive chess games with the likes of Drew Kelson and Frank Okam is the stuff of banter, as well as admiration, among teammates. But Lokey also understands that, in addition to the mental and physical demands of the game, teammates are also looking toward him for senior leadership. That's why Lokey's weekly regiment includes studying books on leadership styles and attributes
"They're definitely looking to me for leadership this year, being one of the few seniors on defense," he said. "I try to lead by example. Every now and then you have to say something but, if you can lead by example, your teams really follow that."
The Horns conclude spring football with the annual Orange-White scrimmage at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, noon, Saturday.