Tyler Lockett entered Kansas State University as an under-the-radar 3-star recruit—but by the time he graduated, he left Manhattan as a Wildcat legend.
A standout at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tyler received attention from the Pac-12 and Big 10 Conferences, but it was an easy decision choosing K-State over two other Big 12 Conference offers. His father, Kevin, and his uncle, Aaron, both played at KSU. When Tyler committed in the class of 2011, Kevin was first on the school’s all-time receiving list, and Aaron was fourth. When he graduated, Aaron was fifth, Kevin was second and Tyler was first.
In addition to following in the footsteps of two of his biggest influences, Tyler wanted to play for K-State’s legendary coach, Bill Snyder.
“My dad just said that it’s a good place to get an education and an opportunity to play for a legendary coach,” Tyler said in 2010. “Coach Snyder definitely played an important role in my decision. I think he’s going to be there to get the program back where it was and I want to be part of that.”
No. 16 played sparingly early in his freshman campaign—but just when the intensity was turning up during Big 12 play, he made his presence felt. TD broke out with a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown to fuel K-State’s 41-34 win over Texas Tech on the road. The following week, he added 110 receiving yards and a touchdown and brought another kick back for six, becoming the first player in school history to do so in back-to-back weeks, as the Wildcats smashed their in-state rival, Kansas, 59-21.
“I just thought about what I could do to help the team this game,” Tyler said after the win. “Luckily it was that.”
Tyler racked up 283 kick return yards the next two weeks, but his freshman year came to a scary conclusion. TD suffered a lacerated kidney to end his season—an injury that fortunately didn’t bring an early end to his football career. He was fully recovered by the following summer.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Tyler said. “Actually, that injury helped me out, not just on the football field but in life. You can’t take anything for granted. Anything God gives you, he can take it away at any time. It allowed me to really humble myself in a lot of areas of my life.”
Despite the injury and the short season, No. 16 was named an All-American at kick returner, which allowed him to leave Kansas State as the school’s only four-year All-American.
The following season was a terrific one for the Wildcat program—the kind of year that TD foresaw when he joined Snyder’s rebuilding initiative in Manhattan. The Wildcats rolled through their first 10 games, all the way to No. 1 in the national rankings before being upended by Baylor on the road. Still the Cats won the Big 12 Championship and earned a Fiesta Bowl bid. Tyler tallied 687 receiving yards and four touchdowns, as well as 688 kick return yards and two scores; which was good for another wave of All-Big 12 and All-America honors.
No. 16 set 17 school records and was the first Wildcat ever to earn All-America honors for four consecutive years.
In Year 3, Tyler truly began his assault on his father’s spot atop K-State’s all-time receiving charts. He had eight 100-plus yard receiving games, as well as three games with three receiving touchdowns—against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Against OU, TD totaled 440 all-purpose yards to break the previous K-State record, held by Darren Sproles and Brandon Banks.
Tyler totaled 1,859 all-purpose yards, the fifth best mark in school history. He was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the year and a second-team All-American by the Football Writers Association.
When TD’s final collegiate campaign rolled around, coaches across the Big 12 were rejoicing that it was the final time they’d have to deal with him. But Tyler saved his best work for last.
No. 16 racked up 1,515 receiving yards and 11 scores, a major component of his 2,296 all-purpose yards—second in school history only to the 2,735 yards amassed by Sproles for the Wildcats in 2003, which ranks as one of the top all-purpose campaigns in NCAA history.
His biggest single-game output, 321 yards, came against West Virginia, prompting some high praise from its head coach, Dana Holgorsen.
“I don’t normally do this, but I went over to Lockett and I said I’m glad you are graduating,” Holgorsen said. “That kid is just a special, special football player. He’s done it to us three years in a row. He’s as good as it gets.”
Tyler left Kansas State at No. 1 on the school’s career receiving charts—ahead of his dad (No. 2) and his uncle (No. 5).
Tyler’s final season brought a slew of honors: Consensus All-American as an all-purpose player and kick returner, Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, first-team All-America, first-team All-Big 12, Campbell Trophy Finalist, Senior CLASS Award Finalist and Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the year.
TD loved all four years of his stint in Manhattan, but what he took with him to the professional level more than anything was the tough, positive, winning mentality instilled by Coach Snyder—an outlook that perfectly aligned with the franchise that drafted him into the NFL.
“The biggest thing with what I learned from Bill Snyder was just the little things,” Tyler said. “You can’t really control the big things, but it’s the little things you can control. He always talked about being 1-0, which is winning every day — whether it’s in the meeting room, in practice — he just talked about trying to win every, single thing that you do every day.”