That’s why Lockette was angry when University of Miami sophomore Thomas Finnie, a former star cornerback on Central’s 2010 state championship team, was arrested and suspended indefinitely earlier this week by the Hurricanes for stealing a laptop computer on campus from a former teammate.
Every one of his players, Lockette said, has been warned by him “not to think they’re invincible.” He said he tells them horror stories — from his life and others — in hopes they won’t mess up, too.
The last of three boys raised by a single mother in Overtown, Lockette said he was lucky enough to “be poor, but not know we were poor.” After his mom went to jail for a few years while he was just beginning his football career at Northwestern, Lockette said his stepfather, Ernest Lawson, and other family and friends (including Snipes’ father) helped raise him. But it still didn’t stop Lockette from blowing an opportunity of playing major-college football.
After getting into a few fights and getting suspended at Northwestern, Lockette said Purdue, Tulane, Georgia Tech and Florida State all cooled on him. The only college that stuck by his side was Idaho State. After a stellar freshman season in college, he came home for winter break and nearly died. Doctors took about a quarter of his skull out and used two metal plates to fill the gaps.
“I still remember hearing people saying, ‘We’re losing him, we’re losing him,’ ” Lockette said. “I was in the hospital for almost six months. I had to learn how to walk, talk again. People look at me now and say ‘Why is this guy wearing shades on the sideline? He must think he’s cocky or cool.’
“I wear them so I don’t get migraines. My eyes are sensitive to the light.”
As painful as that experience was, nothing compared to what he and the former coaches at Northwestern had to deal with in 2007 when Lockette said he didn’t know if his coaching and teaching careers were over.
“Imagine getting fired on national TV and having a wedding that same week,” said Lockette, who was teaching at Highland Oaks Middle School when the alleged cover-up took place.
“My wife’s family is looking at me like I’ve got eight heads. Who is this guy you are marrying? To go before a grand jury and be prosecuted and have your name slandered makes it kind of hard for people to look at you and believe you. After we were cleared, the people here at Central gave me an opportunity to redeem myself, and I jumped at it.”
Now a happy father of three — Jakari, 17, a junior receiver at Central, Tellek, 8, and Skylar, 4 — Lockette said his ultimate goal is to coach on the college level. He had offers after the Rockets won a state title in 2010 but decided not to take any because his daughter had just been born.
“This time around, we’re going to look at it pretty hard,” Lockette said.
But for right now, his sights are set on Saturday’s showdown with Gainesville.
“[Winning] would mean the world,” Lockette said, “to me and everyone in this community.”