Receiver's stunning TD catch portends future of big plays
It was a truly remarkable play in the Seahawks' unremarkable 23-20 season-ending overtime loss to Arizona.
Seattle Times staff columnist
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tarvaris Jackson had all day to throw, which meant Ricardo Lockette had all day to run, and we're starting to find out that when Lockette is running, amazing things can happen.
Down 20-13 in the middle of the fourth quarter, Lockette streaked down the left sideline, gaining speed with every stride. He fought off cornerback Marshay Green with his right hand and somehow was able to keep his concentration and catch Jackson's bomb in stride for a 61-yard game-tying touchdown.
It was a truly remarkable play in the Seahawks' unremarkable 23-20 season-ending overtime loss to Arizona. But more important, it just might have been the harbinger of many touchdown explosions to come from the free-agent rookie from Division II Fort Valley (Ga.) State.
"When T-Jack threw it, he (Lockette) was kind of cruising, but he kicked it into that sixth or seventh gear," Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. "I don't know many guys in this league that have a seventh gear, but I know you can't coach that. If you ain't got that sixth or seventh gear, you're not going to cover him."
Jackson said that when Lockette arrived in camp last summer, he was like Forrest Gump. He just ran. But from his first day in Renton, Lockette was making jaw-dropping catches and running away from cornerbacks.
He ran the 100 meters in 10 flat and the 200 in 20.34. He won a D-II championship in the 200. But Lockette was raw as sushi, a practice-squad guy you reminded yourself to pay attention to in the months ahead.
"We have these highlight films, the good plays from the previous day's practice," Hawks second-year receiver Golden Tate said. "He makes the highlight film every day.
"He has a very, very, very bright future. The kid can fly. He's strong. He's just one of those people that I'm sure I'll never, ever forget. I'm excited to see him grow. Once it comes together for him, he can be a dominant receiver."
Give him a year in the system and a lockout-free winter, spring and early summer to study the game, and who knows what he could become.
The Hawks need a receiver to play opposite Sidney Rice. Why not a 6-foot-2 guy with 4.2 speed? Why not a random free agent who looks as if he belongs?
"I've been on the other side of the ball against him and I was kind of taking him for granted and he came upside of my head and made a big catch," Thomas said. "Look out for him in the future."
A season on the practice squad, even for the greenest of rookies, isn't easy. A practice player is a part of the team, but apart from the team. There are no Sunday rewards. The practice squad is like Triple-A baseball without the games. It's all about hard work and good study habits.
"When I first got here, I was like, 'Do I belong here?' " Lockette said. "But I built up my confidence in practice. It's been a grind, but it's also a blessing just to be on a practice squad and be part of the NFL."
From September to late December, Lockette never saw the field. His game days were Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
"I can imagine it was frustrating for him," Tate said. "But he showed up for work every day with a positive attitude. And his chance eventually came and he did a great job of handling it. When I walk away from the 2011 season, one of the things I'm going to remember is Ricardo Lockette and how he dealt with it when his chance came."
Lockette originally committed to play for Auburn but had problems qualifying and went to the school that was the alma mater for both of his parents. The Seahawks' front office, which has an explorer's ability to unearth unknown talents, signed Lockette after the lockout.
He made his first appearance on Christmas Eve against San Francisco and caught a 44-yard pass early in the game. He finished this first NFL cameo season with two catches and a gaudy 52.5 yards-per-catch average.
"From where he came from, it's a thousand miles from the limited amount of football background that he brought to us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We saw the talent right off the bat. It doesn't take long to see what he had.
"But he just doesn't understand the game. And he's learning. He's got a long ways to go. But he's got the potential to be a great football player some day. He's got great big-play ability. We've just got to give him chances to grow."
He'll get his chances. Look out for Ricardo Lockette.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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