Johnny Lockett: Athlete of the Year

Published 10:22 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

In the 2009 issue of Gridiron, he was characterized as The Flash, the red-clad, DC Comics superhero known particularly for the fleetness of his feet. In Sweet Water, he is referred to most commonly as The Rocket, another moniker that pays homage to his impressive speed.

But to never shift your focus Johnny Lockett’s feet would be to miss out on the most incredible part of him, his mind. Teammate Chris Landrum said that Johnny just gets it, and as simple as the phrasing is, the syntax may be the most accurate description of Lockett ever.

This kid genuinely gets it. He understands, well, a lot. His aptitude on the football field has drawn him the most renown over his high school career. He was the guy that followed Anthony Landrum, a running back who became almost legendary in Sweet Water with his record-breaking achievements. But that never bothered Lockett. He wanted to be that guy. He wanted to be fill those cleats. But that is not uncommon for an athlete. What is uncommon is that an athlete, especially one of Johnny’s young age, understands his place in the grand scheme.

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While simultaneously etching his own name firmly into Sweet Water lore — a task accomplished by back-to-back years as a Class 1A first team all-state running back, including one as a finalist for the classification’s Back of the Year award — Johnny also grasped the notion of leaving a legacy for those behind him. For Lockett, giving a younger player something for which to strive was at least as important as making himself a household name in the south end of Marengo County.

“I work hard and do what I can so younger kids might want to be the next Johnny Lockett just like Iwanted to be the next Anthony Landrum,” Lockett said of his approach to the game.

Suffice it to say that Johnny has accomplished that. His numbers on the gridiron are beyond reproach. Add to his ASWA accolades the fact that he was also the Class 1A Super 6 Most Valuable Player during his junior year and the collection of state championship rings he owns and you get a guy who could call it a career with no regrets. But that would not be Johnny.

Remarkably, football is not even his favorite sport. And he did not play it just because it was something to do. He understood from an early age the vehicle that football could be. That became an important point in his life after he promised his mother that she would not have to pay for college. He assured her that he would earn an athletic scholarship.

When he committed to the University of South Alabama last fall, Johnny kept two promises, one he made to his mother and another covenant he made with himself. Johnny had other options available to him, a list of teams that included schools like Southern Miss, UAB and Auburn, the latter wanting him to star on special teams for them. But Lockett turned a blind eye toward the glitz and glamour of major college football, instead choosing a USA team that will spend much of his college career trying to establish its program.

A decision that would seem odd to many was hardly a decision at all for Johnny. To him, football was football. As long as the school was paying for his education, he didn’t care what colors were on his jersey. On the contrary, his focus was set on the academic side of his collegiate career. And, according to Johnny, South Alabama pitched its academic offerings first and football second. To Johnny, that fit right in line with his priorities.

So he will take his dazzling GPA and all-around collected demeanor to South Alabama, where he will look to finish his degree as quickly as possible.

That’s another remarkable thing about Johnny, who will enter school with a handful of college credits already under his belt. He looks at life after football. From that perspective, he hopes to use the last of his football eligibility to fund at least a portion of his graduate degree.

So it seems his nicknames are appropriate in more ways than one as, whether in football or in life, Johnny Lockett is going places and plans on getting there as fast as he can.