Ricardo Lockette is retired from the Seahawks – but in no way do they forget him inside their locker room and meeting rooms.
The 30-year-old former special-teams ace forced out of football this spring by a neck injury that he feared perhaps would kill him on the field in Dallas last November was on the sidelines during last week’s home preseason game against Minnesota. In the second half, Lockette appeared from the tunnel leading from the Seahawks’ locker room and walked down the bench area. Former teammates, coaches and staffers gave him a series of hugs.
Now the Seahawks are establishing a weekly award in his name beginning this season.
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin – who just like Lockette was an undrafted free agent coming out of college who gained his Seattle foothold on special-teams units – told me following Tuesday’s full-pads practice Seahawks players will vote each week to give a new award for standout special-teams play in the previous game.
“Some of the special-teams leaders, DeShawn Shead and Brock Coyle, they wanted to present something to the team that exemplified who we are as a special-teams unit,” Baldwin said.
That means relentlessly racing down the field in competitions among themselves and playing tough and smart at maximum effort to gain advantageous field position on punts and kickoffs.
For five years in the league, Lockette lived as a reckless punt gunner and kickoff-coverage sprinter. He spent the first two of those seasons, for Seattle in 2011 and San Francisco in ’12, mostly on the practice squad. He earned $1.71 million the last three years to do the job at which few excel and many get injured. Severely.
“We thought it would be fitting to name it after Ricardo Lockette, the guy who did exemplify everything we represent on special teams,” Baldwin said. “So it’s the Ricardo Lockette ‘Rocket’ Award.”
Lockette’s remarkable journey to the Seahawks and the NFL began at Wallace State Community College in Alabama. The former high-school and college sprinter once slept in his car for three nights feeling like a failure for coming up short in his long-shot bid in 2008 to qualify for the Olympics in track.
He was a 200-meter national Division II champion at Fort Valley State, tried football, then entered the NFL in 2011 with Seattle as an undrafted free agent who was raw – but fast and determined.
Three teams – the Seahawks, 49ers and Bears – cut him four times. Yet he came back each time. He caught a 19-yard pass in Seattle’s Super Bowl triumph in February 2014. If New England’s Malcolm Butler hadn’t cut off Lockette’s slant route at the goal line and intercepted Russell Wilson’s last-second pass to end Super Bowl 49, the out-of-nowhere track runner from small Albany, Georgia, would have won two consecutive rings.