By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – Ask a college football player about a coach and you’ll get a very respectful response. Ask a college football player about a coach that’s been in his same shoes and you’ll get respect with a great amount of admiration.
That’s the case for a bunch of USF running backs and their position coach, Telly Lockette, who followed his path of as a player to greatness at Idaho State University. Originally a star running back out of Northwestern High School in Miami, Lockette went on to become a two-time Division I-AA All-American linebacker that racked up 238 career tackles, 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss from 1995-97. Lockette made the most of his final season with the Bengals, leading the team with 92 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Idaho State will pay Lockette the ultimate tribute on Nov. 9, when the university inducts him into its sports hall of fame that already includes Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.
“That’s a blessing. You don’t think of it as a great compliment until your name is called,” Lockette said. “I really was blessed and just overcome by the call. I think it could have been some other guys that could have been called before me, but I’m thankful that my name was called first.”
Lockette’s humble response is a reflection of the person he was at Idaho State and the person he continues to be at USF.
“He was a crowd favorite, a team leader and extremely exciting to watch,” Idaho State Executive Director of Alumni Relations KC Felt said. “As I worked in the booster organization and fundraising area, he was the player everyone wanted to talk to, take pictures with and he was the nicest and most accommodating of all the players.”
Lockette’s Path to USF
Lockette headed back to his high school alma mater following his playing career, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Miami Northwestern from 2003-06. Lockette’s offense really took off in 2006, when Northwestern averaging 42 points per game, the most in state history at the time, and captured a state championship.
Lockette picked up head coaching experience at Miami Central High School from 2008-12 and built quite the resume in the process. Miami Central went 60-10 and made it to three straight state titles games with Lockette in charge while he picked up Nike and Powerade Coach of the Year honors before joining head coach Willie Taggart’s new staff this offseason.
“You’re looking for coaches that can relate to your players. He does a great job of relating to our players and getting them to play at a certain standard,” Taggart said.
Lockette Making Instant Impact With Bulls
The transition from high school to the college game isn’t an easy one to make for a coach, especially in a new offensive system, but Lockette has adjusted well because of his work ethic.
“He picked up our system really quick,” offensive coordinator Walt Wells said. “The thing about Telly is he’s always working at it. He’s up in the office late at night working on cheat sheets to make sure he understands all the ins and outs because he hasn’t been in an offense like this before. He’s always asking questions and he does not want to make a mistake.”
Lockette’s work ethic has rubbed off on USF’s running backs that have helped the Bulls average 120.3 yards on the ground per game despite star back Marcus Shaw missing time with an injury. Shaw still ranks 14th nationally in rushing yards per game (110.4) and 49th in the country with 552 total rushing yards.
Despite Shaw missing USF’s 13-10 win at UConn on Oct. 12, the Bulls’ trio of backup backs combined to rush for 127 yards with freshman Darius Tice leading the way with 69 yards on 11 carries.
“He’s set a standard of what he wants our running backs to be no matter who is in there at the position,” Taggart said. “It’s great to see those guys have production. You lose Marcus and those other guys step in and continue to be able to run the football a little bit.”
Redshirt sophomore Willie Davis had two career carries before the UConn game and ended with a career-high eight carries for 38 yards. Davis produced one of USF’s top plays to date this season when he carried defenders for a 16-yard gain from the Bulls’ 3-yard line in second quarter and credited Lockette for getting him ready for his big moment.
“He just kept telling me, ‘Keep grinding and stay patient for your name to be called.’ Sure enough it was and I was ready,” Davis said. “We learn so much from him because he was a running back. He’s played the position and he knows what a running back needs in his game, working on protection and footwork and routes. He’s taught us a lot.”
Lockette will be the first to tell you he still has a lot to learn about coaching in the college game, but the humble Hall of Famer is embracing the football journey that’s taken him a long way already.
“It’s a great process. I work for a great coach on a great coaching staff. The administration here, it’s all been great,” he said.
Lockette’s Career Stats at Idaho State
- One of two top tacklers on the team all three years (1995-97)
69 tackles (2nd on the team)
40 unassisted tackles
3 tackles for loss
3 pass deflections
78 tackles (tied for 2nd on the team)
46 unassisted tackles
7 tackles for loss
5 pass deflections
92 tackles (lead the team)
42 unassisted tackles
10 tackles for loss
2 pass deflections
238 total tackles
128 unassisted tackles
20 tackles for loss
10 pass deflections